The widely-held criticism of the most recent Republican presidential debate was that substantial economic issues important to Americans were by-passed in favor of salacious attempts to catch the candidates off guard and pit them against each other.
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On Tuesday, the FOX Business Network and the Wall Street Journal have an opportunity to rectify that earlier missed opportunity during another televised debate that will focus primarily on economic issues.
Here are six topics the candidates could discuss that would shed light on their views on how best to improve the economic standing both of the U.S. and the many millions of Americans still struggling to gain a financial foothold in the wake of the deep tremors set off by the 2008 financial crisis.
- Weak wage growth: the headline labor numbers have been strong recently. In October, the U.S. economy added a whopping 271,000 new jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 5%, the lowest since 2007. But wages haven’t followed suit, and many middle class Americans are struggling to keep up as the costs of rent, food and college tuition skyrocket.
- Lack of high-tech skills: employers and economists have said one reason Americans aren’t getting paid more is because they’re producing less. And one reason they’re producing less is because many don’t have the skills to perform the high-tech jobs emerging as the norm in the post-crisis U.S. economy. Now more than ever, good-paying jobs require higher and more specialized levels of education.
- Corporate tax reform: U.S. companies pay the highest corporate tax rate (35%) in the industrialized world. Understandably, they don’t like it and are coming up with creative ways to avoid paying their legally-required share. Notably, a growing number – at least 50 in the last two decades with the number rising sharply in recent years -- are undertaking so-called inversions in which they move their corporate headquarter overseas in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes. The U.S. is losing billions each year in revenue.
- Higher interest rates: the Federal Reserve appears poised to raise interest rates in December, which means it will soon be more expensive for U.S. consumers and businesses to borrow money. Consumers will pay more for homes, cars and other big ticket items frequently purchased through financing deals. And businesses will pay more for investments in capital improvements and expansion. Both situations could prove impediments to the fragile economic recovery.
- Energy policy: falling oil prices have had a significant impact on the sprawling U.S. energy sector, cutting into the profits of big domestic energy-related firms and leading to thousands of layoffs. Nearly 70,000 domestic energy-related jobs were cut in the first half of 2015. But cheaper oil means a break for consumers who are paying less at the pump. How to balance that conflict?
- Climate change: is climate change a real concern? If so, how will the candidates balance their energy policies to address the environment and a domestic economy dependent upon many thousands of good-paying, energy-related jobs. President Obama’s decision last week to nix the Keystone XL pipeline might be a good place to start that conversation.
The main event at 9 p.m. ET will host the top eight candidates currently leading in a group of selected polls: they include real estate mogul Donald Trump; retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; former HP (NYSE:HPQ) CEO Carly Fiorina; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
The 7 p.m. ET undercard will include New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and former Arkanas Gov. Mike Huckabee.