The opening debates of the 2016 presidential campaign provided a disappointingly small amount of information on whether and how the Republican candidates might deal with the country’s tough fiscal challenges.
At the two debates in Cleveland Thursday, some candidates mentioned topics such as the federal debt, the entitlement programs and the faulty federal tax system. Some also cited their work as governors to improve state budgets.
But opportunities for more substantive discussions on fiscal issues were limited by the number of candidates as well as the questions they were asked. The top ten candidates, based on polling data, appeared in one debate while the seven others were featured in an earlier program.
“We would have liked to have seen more questions on fiscal issues,” said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition. “The candidates need to be pressed on how their proposals add up to a sustainable budget policy. Vague calls for fiscal responsibility and economic growth aren’t enough when the budget is already on an unsustainable path.”
But he added: “On the bright side, a number of candidates seemed prepared to talk more about the budget if they had been asked.”
Bixby said the debates underscored the importance of First Budget, a nonpartisan initiative of Concord and Fix the Debt to encourage presidential candidates to discuss fiscal concerns.