October 21, 2014

Key Questions for the Candidates

With the Republican National Convention this week and the Democrats’ gathering not far behind, The Concord Coalition has released an updated version of its “Key Questions Voters Should Ask Candidates About Our Nation’s Fiscal Future.”

The questions and accompanying background information are intended to help voters and journalists assess the fiscal rhetoric of candidates for federal office. In updating this material for the fall campaign, Concord urges all of these candidates to provide voters with clear explanations of how they would hold down federal deficits, reform the tax system, repair the entitlement programs and put the country on a more responsible path.

The Key Questions cover topics that include the defense budget, Social Security, health care, tax policies, government waste, recommendations from members of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the “fiscal cliff” (sharp spending cuts and the expiration of tax cuts scheduled for the end of this year), and possible areas for future bipartisan cooperation.

Attempting to avoid controversy and accountability, political candidates often fall back on vague language that raises as many questions as it answers. Concord’s questions are designed to draw out more specific information for voters to consider.

Many politicians in both parties, for example, are talking about the need for  tax reform. Concord suggests pressing them to specify which tax preferences they would eliminate. In addition, voters need to know whether the candidates would use the resulting revenue for deficit reduction or something else.

Fiscal austerity is another popular talking point, but candidates are often slow to identify any proposals that would actually hit close to home. Voters can prod them for specific examples of changes in government spending or tax policy that they would support even though it would involve some sacrifices for their states or congressional districts.

The Key Questions will be updated periodically to reflect new fiscal estimates and projections.