Will the presidential candidates debate the debt?

Oct 2, 2012

With less than five weeks to the election, voters face an important decision that will impact our nation's fiscal future. The leaders we elect will be tasked with taming our growing national debt — making this one of the most critical elections in recent memory. It's never been more important that voters know where the candidates stand.

During this year’s 2012 presidential debates, we will have the chance to hear from both candidates on their visions for America’s economic future. In any campaign, it can be difficult to separate the serious policy recommendations from the political talking points. Voters should listen closely to how the candidates address concrete solutions to our long-term fiscal challenges.

Here are three things to listen for as the candidates debate their plans for fixing America's escalating national debt problem:

  1. What do they say about the future of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? Over the next 25 years, these entitlements will account for 100 percent of the federal government's non-interest spending growth. Any debt reduction plan must include meaningful, long-term structural changes to these programs to ensure they are financially sustainable, while protecting the social safety net for those who need it most.
  2. What do they say about tax reform? Federal revenues are at historic lows, and reducing America's long-term debt burden through spending cuts alone would result in significant cuts that do not have bipartisan support. How do the candidates recommend we reform our nation's tax system?
  3. What do they say about defense spending? The growth of our nation's long-term debt is a threat to our national security because we can't be a strong nation unless we have a strong economy. Our nation's overall defense spending is more than the defense budgets of the next 13 highest-spending countries combined. Policymakers must ensure that we secure America by spending smartly and strategically on defense.

We cannot effectively address our long-term fiscal challenges without making reforms to the major areas of the federal budget. As voters, it's up to us to choose leaders with the courage to make the tough choices necessary to resolve our national debt.

For a comprehensive guide to the State of the Union's Finances, click here.

Play the OweNo "Debate the Debt" game: Download the Scorecard and check off a square whenever either candidate uses a fiscal buzzword.

Expert Views: Fiscal Commission

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National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.