Although a debate stage with eight candidates is inherently conducive to a circus atmosphere, the debate moderators need to focus on questions which elicit substantive answers to specific policy questions from the candidates. Moreover, the liberal moderators from Politico and NBC should remember that they are overseeing a Republican debate. As such, their questions should stem from conservative premises, and should provoke thoughtful responses from the candidates – responses that will demonstrate their visions of conservative governance to a conservative electorate.
Another bonus proposal would be for the Reagan Library to screen the audience more carefully to prevent outbursts of cheers and jeers, thereby engendering a more serious atmosphere than the previous debate (yes, we're looking at you, Ron Paul supporters).
Here are some proposed questions:
- Entitlements & Mandatory Spending: Everyone likes to offer vague bromides about the necessity for entitlement reform. What is your specific plan to reform the three big mandatory spending programs? How will that plan uphold the integrity of the free market and conservative principles? What is your plan for the burgeoning "other mandatory spending programs," such as food stamps, welfare, and extended unemployment benefits?
-Federal Reserve: Many conservatives have criticized the Fed’s interventionist policies as the culprit for a weak dollar and higher commodity prices. What reforms would you impose on the Fed? Would you repeal the Fed's dual mandate to achieve economic growth, leaving it to focus just on currency stability?
-Taxes: Some candidates have offered a more specific tax reform plan than others. What specific rates would you propose for the personal income tax, the corporate tax, capital gains & dividends? Should we abolish the death tax? Which tax credits and deductions, if any, would you keep? Do you believe in refundable credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit? Do you support Obama's proposal to extend the 2% payroll tax holiday for another year?
- Energy Subsidies: Should we abolish ethanol subsidies, or merely reform them as some in the Senate have proposed? What about farm subsidies? Should government invest any resources in alternative fuels, or should that be left to private enterprise and the free market?
Do you think there is any role for price & wage controls or subsidies in a free market economy?
- Nuclear Energy: Is the failure of Japanese nuclear plants during the tsunami relevant to our nuclear energy program? Do you think we should still pursue a robust nuclear energy program in this country?
- Patent Reform Bill: Congress is set to pass a patent reform bill this week. It enjoys broad bipartisan support, and the president is touting it as an engine for job creation. There are small minorities in both parties that oppose it. Do you think we should transform our first-to-invent system into a first-to-file system? Is this a jobs bill?
-Healthcare: Presumably, everyone supports the repeal of Obamacare. Nevertheless, even before Obamacare, the cost of healthcare had been skyrocketing. What do you think is the cause of the high healthcare costs and what conservative solutions would you implement to create downward pressure on healthcare costs?
-Downsizing Government: Everyone in the Republican field repeats incessantly that the size of government is too big. The power and scope of government is structured through departments, agencies, boards, offices, and programs. Which ones would you eliminate?
An American president is inherently limited in his ability to control the entire executive branch by himself. How would you ensure that inveterate agencies and offices, which are controlled by career bureaucrats and have an innate proclivity to expand, are reined in by the administration?
-Transportation/ Infrastructure: President Obama is pushing for a new infrastructure stimulus as part of his jobs plan. Do you think that surface transportation should continue to be a primary responsibility of the federal government, or should we abolish the federal gasoline tax and devolve transportation spending to the states?
Over the past few decades the Postal Service and Amtrak have racked up billions of dollars in losses. Should we privatize them?
-Education: Would you repeal No Child Left Behind? What role, if any, should the federal government play in education?
-Housing: Should the federal government be involved in public housing, rental assistance, and housing finance activities?
-Immigration/Homeland Security: It is universally understood that we must gain control over our borders. What specific steps would you pursue to achieve a secure border? Do you believe that the intent of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants? How would you ensure that illegals don't receive welfare benefits or tax credits? Do you support mandatory E-verify and Real ID?
What reforms would you institute to our legal immigration system? Would you encourage changes to the volume of immigration? Do you think that 1.1 million legal immigrants per year are too much? Would you abolish the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program?
There have been dozens of attempted terror attacks since 9/11, many of which were plotted by legal residents, or even American citizens. Most of them originated from Middle Eastern countries. What reforms would you implement to ensure that there is more scrutiny of those who originate from countries that represent security risks? Would you make changes to our airport security system and the TSA to focus more on targeted threats, while preserving the liberties of the vast majority of travelers?
-10th Amendment: There has been a newfound alacrity for the 10th Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” What do you believe are the boundaries to which even state governments cannot traverse, and must cede exclusively to the people?
-Trade: Are you concerned about the growing trade deficit? Do you believe that the primary culprit is free trade, or the fiscal deficit, along with imprudent domestic policies, such as over-taxation and regulation? Should we support protectionist programs like the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)?
-Life/Marriage: Assuming Roe v. Wade is not overturned, what will you do to promote the sanctity of life as president? If Congress fails to send a Federal Marriage Amendment to the states, what will you do to preserve the institution of marriage from becoming redefined?
-Iran: For everyone except Ron Paul; what specific measures would you take to preclude Iran from meddling into Iraq and from obtaining nuclear weapons?
-Arab Spring: Do you believe that pursuing democracy in the Middle East is a prudent or even laudable goal per se?
- Syria: As the Assad regime in Syria faces public uprising, should we stay out, or should we work to bring down Assad? What would you do different from the Obama administration in regard to Syria?
-Israel/UN: Do you believe that the creation of a Palestinian state is in the best interests of our security concerns? What role should we play in the U.N over the coming years? Should we cut off funding?
-North Korea: Would you continue pursuing the six-party talks with North Korea? If not, what policy would you implement in order to more effectively keep this rogue nation in check?
- Iraq/Afghanistan: What would you do to prevent Iraq from becoming an Iranian proxy after we pull out from the country? As casualties mount in Afghanistan and the war enters its 11th year, what do you see as our primary mission there? How would you pursue a strategy of victory?
-China: Is China a strategic partner, a strategic competitor, or an enemy of the United States? Do you view them as more of an economic threat or a military threat?
-Russia/Missile Defense: From the pullout of our missile defense program in Eastern Europe to the ratification of START, we seem to be on the run from an increasingly belligerent Russian government. How would you change our policy towards Russia and ensure that our missile defense capabilities are not hampered by START?
Latin America: There is a growing trend of left-wing quasi tin-pot Hugo Chavez-style leaders assuming power in South and Central America. Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela all have governing leaders that have either exhibited antipathy and hostility towards the U.S. in varying degrees, or opened alliances with our enemies. Many of these states are allied with some of our enemies in the Middle East, most notably, Iran. What is your plan to deal with this creeping threat in the Western Hemisphere?
What would you like to hear from the candidates?