4 thoughts on “Obama-Romney debate avoids problems again

  1. The Moderators’ Agendas What was–and wasn’t–asked at debates

    Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:32 am (PDT) . Posted by:

    “Richard Frager”

    The establishment media figures who moderated the 2012 major-party candidate debates confined the discussion to a remarkably narrow range of topics, a FAIR analysis of debate questions finds.??

    A wide variety of topics were never brought up in questions during the six total hours of debate. Among economic subjects, no questions were asked about poverty, income inequality, the housing crisis, labor unions, agriculture or the Federal Reserve.??

    Social issues were similarly truncated, with no questions raised about race or racism, gay rights (including marriage equality), civil liberties, criminal justice or drug legalization. Despite the fact that four Supreme Court justices are now over 70, candidates were never asked about what kind of nominations they would make to the high court or other judicial positions.??

    Notably, there was no mention of climate change, arguably the greatest single threat facing humanity–the first time that the issue did not come up in a presidential debate cycle since 1984 (Treehugger, 10/22/12). Nor, indeed, were any environmental topics raised, unless you count the question about gas prices asked by a voter in the town hall debate.??

    And international questions focused on a very narrow slice of the world, with none raising issues in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa or Europe, including Russia.??

    Counting questions-What questions were asked? FAIR looked at the topics raised in questions by moderators in the three presidential debates and the one vice-presidential debate, including the questions posed by undecided voters that were selected by moderator Candy Crowley for the October 16 “town hall” debate. (If a topic was raised in more than one question during a single debate segment, that was counted as a single mention of the topic.)??

    FAIR counted 28 topics that were mentioned a total of 53 times throughout 35 debate segments. Twenty-two of the mentions were categorized as economic issues, 20 touched on international policy and 10 dealt with social policies. An additional eight mentions were categorized as “other”–dealing with things like character, campaign tactics or the legacy of George W. Bush. (Some topics–such as trade–were counted in more than one category.)??

    Though the No. 1 issue among voters is overwhelmingly jobs, and this was a frequent subject of debate questions, the moderators raised economic topics framed around the federal budget more than twice as often, with 11 mentions versus five. The topic of the deficit was raised three times, taxes came up four times, and Social Security and Medicare were each brought up twice in the context of federal spending. There was also one mention of trade.??

    International policy questions focused heavily on the Middle East and conflicts in majority-Muslim countries. Libya and Afghanistan were brought up three times during the debates, while Iran and Syria were raised twice each, and Israel, Pakistan and Egypt were each discussed in a single segment. Aside from one discussion of China, the candidates were questioned about no other region of the world.??

    Not all international policy questions focused on a particular part of the world; six other debate segments involved questions dealing with the military, security or general international policy.

    One of these questions was about the drone wars, but moderator Bob Schieffer (10/22/12) pointedly declined to ask it of the person in charge of such wars: “Let me ask you, governor, because we know President Obama’s position on this, what is your position on the use of drones?”??

    In the relatively few questions that dealt with social policy, healthcare came up three times–including two segments that asked about Medicare’s contribution to the deficit. Gender issues were raised twice (pay equity and abortion), while immigration, education and gun control were each brought up once.??

    Important–or not– While no time was found for a wide range of critical political topics, moderators did find time to ask seemingly pointless questions, as when Jim Lehrer (10/3/12) asked of the presidential hopefuls, “Does the federal government have a responsibility to improve the quality of public education in America?” (Was he expecting one of them to maybe say no?) Or Martha Raddatz’s query to the vice presidential candidates (10/11/12): “If you are elected, what could you both give to this country as a man, as a human being, that no one else could?”??

    The questions chosen by moderators at the debates presumably reflect the issues establishment media leaders see as important–and unimportant. In particular, the moderators seemed to place a much higher priority on federal budget issues than voters do when they are asked to name the most important issue facing the country.??

    The questions may also reflect partisan pressures: Based on the moderators’ queries, the most important international policy issue facing the nation is the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya–an emphasis that would be hard to explain without considering the Romney campaign’s decision to make it one of their central criticisms of Obama’s foreign policy.??

    Such partisan and establishment influences should come as no surprise, given that the Commission on Presidential Debates is essentially controlled by the two major parties, with the campaigns allowed to vet the moderators (FAIR Media Advisory, 10/3/12)–a setup that will never result in tough questions across a true diversity of important issues.

    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

    2
    80 top CEOs tell Obama, Romney to slash social spending

    Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:17 pm (PDT) . Posted by:

    “Richard Frager”

    The chief executives of 80 large US corporations have issued a “Deficit Manifesto,” calling on the next president to “fix America’s debt” by making substantial “changes in the federal budget.” The statement was published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Behind the innocuous phrases is the demand by some of the richest individuals in America for the slashing of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and a general offensive against the working class.

    The CEOs’ letter, signed by a “Who’s who” of CEOs at giant US banks, financial firms and industrial corporations, calls on politicians to acknowledge “that our growing debt is a serious threat to the economic well-being and security of the United States.” It calls for Washington to adopt “an effective plan [to] stabilize the debt as a share of the economy, and put it on a downward path.”

    The plan should be enacted now, “but implemented gradually to protect the fragile economic recovery and to give Americans time to prepare for the changes in the federal budget.” In other words, their proposals would worsen life for wide layers of the population, who need to “prepare” themselves for a drastic decline in their conditions.

    Making no reference to the trillions of dollars made available to the banks during the financial bailout nor the trillions more that go toward imperialist war and the global defense of their economic interests, the company heads insist that the target of a plan to “fix America’s debt” should concentrate on the programs that assist tens of millions of working people, the poor and retirees.

    They argue that a plan must “Reform Medicare and Medicaid, improve efficiency in the overall health care system and limit future cost growth” and “Strengthen Social Security, so that it is solvent and will be there for future beneficiaries.” These are code words for gutting these programs, which the wealthy consider an intolerable drain on resources.

    The CEO statement also calls for “comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform, which broadens the base, lowers rates, raises revenues and reduces the deficit.” Felix Salmon of Reuters comments, “You can’t have lower rates and higher revenues—not without eviscerating pretty much all of the tax deductions which much of the middle class has learned to rely upon. Mortgage-interest tax relief, the charitable deduction, even the deduction for state and local taxes: pretty much all of them would have to go.”

    Salmon comments sardonically that “the letter basically just says ‘please cut our taxes, raise taxes on everybody else, and cut the benefits they get from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, which are programs we individually don’t rely upon.’”

    The statement concludes by calling on Washington to implement the recommendations of the 2010 bipartisan Bowles-Simpson Commission.

    Those included some $4 trillion in budget savings to be achieved almost entirely at the expense of the working population: new taxes on consumption and employee health care benefits and cuts to the federal old-age insurance programs, Social Security and Medicare, and to the jobs and pay of government workers. At the same time, Bowles-Simpson called for large tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

    In fact, the Wall Street Journal points out that the CEO manifesto “was organized by the Fix the Debt campaign, a bipartisan effort largely inspired by Republican Alan Simpson and Democrat Erskine Bowles, who chaired a 2010 deficit panel appointed by President Obama and have been crisscrossing the country sounding fiscal alarms.”

    The new “manifesto” comes on top of a letter issued last week by 15 CEOs of banks, brokerages and insurance companies calling for the federal budget to be reduced and warning that failure to take action by the end of the year could result in renewed financial crisis and economic slump. Among its signatories were Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase; Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs; Michael Corbat, CEO of Citibank; John Stumpf, CEO of Wells Fargo; and Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America.

    Dimon, Blankfein and Moynihan also attached their names to this week’s open letter. Among its other signers were the CEOs of Alcoa, AT&T, Boeing, Caterpillar, Delta Airlines, Dow Chemical, GE, Merck, Microsoft, Time Warner, UPS, Verizon, etc. Financiers, speculators and asset managers are also on the list, including Leon Black of Apollo Global Management, Larry Fink of BlackRock (with $3.3 trillion in assets under management, the world’s largest such firm), Martin L. Flanagan of Invesco and Thomas M. Joyce of Knight Capital Group.

    It seems probable that every one of the 80 on the list is a multi-millionaire, simply on the basis of his or her annual compensation. A little investigation reveals that the following signatories did well for themselves last year: David Cote of Honeywell took in $56 million in total compensation (fifth-highest paid executive in the US), Dimon of JPMorgan Chase earned $42 million, Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm made $36 million, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, $26 million, Alexander Cutler of Eaton Corp., $26 million also, BlackRock’s Fink, $23 million, Jeffrey Immelt of GE, $21 million, Goldman Sachs’ Blankfein, $21 million as well, and Glenn A Britt of Time Warner, $17 million.

    How many billionaires are there among the “Deficit Manifesto” signers? Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, worth $16 billion and the 19th richest person in America, according to Forbes, is one. Fellow billionaires Leon Black, Andrew and James Tisch of Loews Corporation, Bill Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management and Steven Roth of Vornado Realty are also on the list.

    Eighty corporate-financial thieves, who between them are largely to blame for the financial disaster of 2008, who are collectively responsible for the destruction for countless jobs and entire communities, publicly inform the political powers that be what the policies of the next government—theoretically still elected by the populace—are to be.

    And, of course, the response of the Obama and Romney camps to the CEO letter was sympathetic and even enthusiastically supportive. The Journal cites the comment of Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt: “There’s a strong and growing consensus that the only way to reduce the deficit while also growing the economy is through a balanced approach that includes both tough spending cuts and increased revenue.”

    Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg told the newspaper, “As president, [Romney] will bring his record of bipartisan success to Washington and put us on a path to achieve more than the Simpson-Bowles commission ever proposed—balancing the budget within the next 10 years.”

    http://wsws.org/articles/2012/oct2012/ceos-o26.shtml

    Friday, Oct. 26th, 7 PM, First Unitarian Church, SW 12th and Salmon

    HEIST, WHO STOLE THE AMERICAN DREAM?
    (Sponsored by Alliance for Democracy as a fundraiser for Alliance for Democracy; co-sponsored by KBOO Community Radio and Economic Justice Action Group)

    HEIST: Who Stole the American Dream? is stunning audiences across the globe as it traces the worldwide economic collapse to a 1971 secret memo entitled Attack on American Free Enterprise System. Written over 40 years ago by the future Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell, at the behest of the US Chamber of Commerce, the 6-page memo, a free-market utopian treatise, called for a money fueled big business makeover of government through corporate control of the media, academia, the pulpit, arts and sciences and destruction of organized labor and consumer protection groups.
    But Powell’s real “end game” was business control of law and politics. HEIST’s step by step detail exposes the systemic implementation of Powell’s memo by BOTH U.S. political parties culminating in the deregulation of industry, outsourcing of jobs and regressive taxation. All of which led us to the global financial crisis of 2008 and the continued dismantling of the American middle class.

    Today, politics is the playground of the rich and powerful, with no thought given to the hopes and dreams of ordinary Americans. No other film goes as deeply as HEIST in explaining the greatest heist of our time. Moving beyond the white noise of today’s polarizing media, HEIST provides viewers with a clear, concise and fact-based explanation of how we got into this mess, and what we need to do to restore our representative democracy.

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