Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Questions for our presidential candidates

On February 19th, Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner sent the following letter to the three leading candidates for president, Senators Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama:

I write congratulating you for the outstanding campaign you have run against formidable competition.

I also write giving you the opportunity to outline for Toledo and Northwest Ohio residents your plans to stimulate economic recovery in the urban centers of America. I will personally pay to reprint – word for word – in the local paper, both the Saturday and Monday prior to the March 4th election, your response.

The cities of America have many families struggling to make ends meet. Nearly 40 million Americans are officially poor – a family of three living on less than $16,000 annually. And 80% of such poor are living in urban areas.

During the years 1992-2000, the mayors of America saw the following programs greatly assist those living in cities:

∙∙∙ Community Development Block Grants
∙∙∙ Brownfield Clean-up Grants
∙∙∙ Assistance to public housing agencies
∙∙∙ “Cops Now” money to increase the policemen on our streets

Since 2000, most of these programs have been dramatically reduced. And our citizens are hurting.

And I believe Toledoans would be interested in what you would do to reopen NAFTA discussions to protect American workers, particularly those living here in the mid-West. Will you commit to re-negotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and its sister agreements, which have been proven to disadvantage workers in this region of our country while simultaneously facilitating the exploitation of workers and the environment in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America?

Please outline your programs to assist our citizens, including your ideas to assist those threatened by foreclosure action upon their homes.

I would ask for your response by February 27, giving me the time to reprint your response prior to the primary election on March 4.

Toledoans will appreciate your answers to the questions being raised.

I await your response, and thank you for assisting Toledoans in knowing where you stand on these important issues.

I do not know if he's received any responses yet, but if there are ads in the paper on Saturday, we'll know...

It's a creative idea for the mayor of a city to write to the presidential candidates, but I wish Carty had focused on things that are Constitutionally within the control of the President. 'COPS' grants, local housing and even brownfields clean-up are - or should be - the purview of local communities and states, not the Federal Government.

NAFTA - and the negotiation of treaties - is certainly a duty of the President. But for as many individuals who believe NAFTA has hurt them, there are others who have benefited from the increased trade and opportunities NAFTA has provided. Unfortunately, Carty's letter is written from the perspective of a Democrat mayor, as that is, after all, what he is.

Foreclosures are a problem locally, but despite all the media attention to them, only a small percentage of homeowners are in this situation. And his question to the candidates presumes that the President should do something about this 'problem' despite no Constitutional authority to do so and absent the understanding that Congress is really the entity that regulates this market.

And then there is this column by John Stossel which points out, better than I could, the lack of influence a President has to manage the economy.

"Politicians who talk about managing the economy ignore the fact that, strictly speaking, there is no economy. There are only people producing, buying and selling goods and services. Keep that in mind, and one realizes that government action more often than not interferes with the productive activities that benefit everyone. When politicians propose regulations to fix some problem, they should ask if some earlier intervention created the problem and if the new regulations will make things worse. The answer to both questions is usually yes.

The economy is far too complex for any president -- no matter how smart -- to manage."

Rather than ask what these candidates would do to solve our local problems, I'd ask them questions about the federal budget and financial obligations. Here are some of the questions I'd ask the candidates:

1. Do you believe that budget deficits matter? If so - what are you going to do about them?

2. What would you do to balance the federal budget? What specific spending cuts would you make to achieve a balanced budget?

3. The tax cuts passed since 2001 are set to expire by 2011. Do you support extension of the expiring tax cuts? Why or why not - and please identify if some should expire while others stay.

4. How do you propose to keep Medicare from overwhelming the federal budget?

5. By about 2015, promised benefits from Social Security will greatly exceed dedicated taxes. What steps would you take to close Social Security’s long-term funding gap?

6. Candidates often talk about the 'middle class' in terms of programs and taxation. Please identify earnings criteria (total family income for a family of four) that describes your definition of "middle class." At what level of earnings would this family of four move into the 'rich' category?

While these questions are not as pertinent to the City of Toledo budget as Carty's are, I think they are better questions to ask the people who are vying to lead our country.

What question would you ask????


Robin said...

What is your opinion of NCLB? Do you have any direct experience with this program (through children, granchildren, teachers, etc)?

Maggie said...

Robin - I have no direct experience with it, but I have family members who are teachers, and one who is a former school board member, all in other states.

I understand what Pres. Bush was trying to do - and despite his good intentions, and even some positive results - I don't believe it's the role of the federal government to handle education. I believe that should be a local decision and one certainly left to the states.

I'd abolish the federal Education department as it's not authorized in the Constitution.

Robin said...

Other questions I would have would pertain to Autism:

There is a lot of speculation that vaccinations could be the cause of Autism. Particularly mercury that is found in some vaccinations. I know that it has been taken out of most, but can still be found in the flu shot. Would you make pharma companies take mercury (and other hazardous materials) out of vaccinations? Would you have pharma companies provide a list of all ingredients of a vaccine, so a parent can make the decision whether to vaccinate their child, or not?

Do you support federal money going to Autism research? How about money going toward helping families that are affected by this condition?

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