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The real questions to ask Obama and Romney
Written by  // Wednesday, 01 August 2012 17:12 //

romney-obama-smallIf you could sit down with each of the two presidential candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, what would you ask them?  What insights would you be looking for?  What knowledge would you expect them to have?  And just how much difference do you think they could really make?

Most likely, the nation’s financial problems would be at the top of anyone’s list.  “It’s the economy, stupid,” says the Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville.  But can a president really make that much difference in solving the country’s economic woes?  I tend to agree with a number of financial observers who say that no president has all that much influence on major economic change.

 

 

Here’s what Austan Goolsbee, a former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers says:  “I think the world vests too much power — certainly in the president, probably in Washington in general — for its influence on the economy, because most all of the economy has nothing to do with the government.”

And Stephen Dunbar, author of the recent New York Times best seller on the U.S. economy, Freakonomics, agrees. In regard to the economy, “I believe that the office of the president of the United States, matters a lot less than most people think.

Most economists would agree that both congress and the president can do significant damage to the economy by irresponsible spending – like two multi-billion dollar wars with no plan for how to pay it, the massive bailouts for banks, and the billions poured into auto and insurance companies because they were “too big to fail.” And what about the deficient regulation at both the federal and state levels that permitted unscrupulous and reckless lending to the untold millions of home buyers who became homeowners hopelessly in over their heads in debt — with many of them ending up losing their homes, their investments, and their dreams.

In a global economy, holding the president accountable for a country’s economic woes may be a good tactic for the political opposition, but don’t expect a “changing of the guard” to bring about any dramatic difference. “I’ll open up the jobs spigot, get millions working again, and lower gas prices to boot. Don’t think about it. Just read my lips.” Yeah, right!

So if economic growth is subject to the whims of other world economies, just what else would you like to ask the president?  I hope not the same old rhetorical questions that we have heard posed by the press in debate after debate. What would you “really” like to ask?  How about:

America has the highest total prison population in the world. By far.  (My home state of Louisiana is, by a huge margin, number one.)  Why is this so, and what can you and congress do about it?

More laws you say? But the U.S. has more laws on its books than any other country. Over 5000 federal criminal laws alone. When the constitution was initially adopted, four crimes were listed. Four. Treason, bribery, piracy and counterfeiting.  Are all these 5000 criminal laws now on the books necessary?  Here are a few examples. Did you know that it is a federal crime to deal in the interstate transport of unlicensed dentures?  For this you get one year in jail. How about a six month jail sentence for pretending to be a member of the 4-H club?

You can get six months for degrading the character of Woodsy Owl, or his associated slogan: “Give a hoot — don’t pollute.” Now down here in Louisiana, we love our rodeos to be orderly, and while we might frown on those who would disrespect that, we’d probably let him off the hook. Nevertheless, you’d better think twice about disrupting a rodeo – it’s a federal crime.

Mr. presidential wannabe, how about the fact that the U.S. is the world’s leader in the production of pornography and is the world’s leader in the use of illicit drugs?  Does U.S. leadership in these fields concern you? Care to comment?

Americans are the most obese people in the world and are getting fatter. And you and I, as taxpayers, are covering the $billions in healthcare costs of this obesity epidemic. Does government have a role in determining eating lifestyles and what the food industry can produce and sell? Should nutrition requirements be set for school lunchrooms? It’s our tax dollars, and I say yes. Cut out the pizza and hot dogs. And trans fats? It’s poison. Get it out of all of our foods. Again, I’m sick and tired of having to pay the healthcare costs of so many irresponsible adults and the industries that produce and promote these seriously harmful foods. What do you say, Mr. President or President elect?

So the question I would pose to the guy who wants to lead the free world and all of us for the next four years, do these issues concern you?  How about taking a break from spending hundreds of millions of dollars beating up on your opponent and address these real problems, and our real concerns.  Americans are a pretty savvy lot who realize that our way of life needs to change and that certain sacrifices have to be made.

Our leaders on the national level can do only so much.  But if we as Americans are being shortchanged, it’s time to talk specifics and come down off the platitudes of campaign rhetoric that is presently dominating the debate.  We deserve better.  And we are ready to listen.

********

“I have no other view than to promote the public good, and am unambitious of honors not founded in the approbation of my Country.”

George Washington

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the South.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com.   You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. 

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Jim Brown is a Louisiana legislator, Secretary of State and Insurance Commissioner.  

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