State domestic policy experts weigh in on presidential debate
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer AND RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 03, 2012
10/03/12 at 10:52 PM
Oklahoma experts on a variety of domestic policy issues said Wednesday night’s presidential debate offered interesting and useful information, but they lamented that some subjects were not dealt with in more depth — or in some cases at all.
“There was no discussion of immigration or social policy,” said David Blatt of the Tulsa-based Oklahoma Policy Institute. “They kept going back to taxes, Medicare and education — all of which are important.
“The strangest thing is that so much of how we choose a president is based on a skill they don’t need after they become president. The one thing you don’t do as president is debate. We have a better selection process for deciding who will be Donald Trump’s apprentice than we do for president.”
Gerard Clancy, president of the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa and a health policy expert, said that while there was a lot of talk about health care in the debate, both candidates missed the mark by not discussing opportunities to drive down costs.
Too much time was spent arguing over insurance policy issues, which left no discussion of how wellness programs, enhanced primary care and chronic disease treatments could slow the rise of medical inflation, Clancy said.
He said he was disappointed with Mitt Romney’s several references to unelected boards making health-care decisions under the Affordable Care Act.
While the phrase sounded ominous in the debate, Clancy said the concept is not new or anything to be feared. It is a common practice in contemporary health care and an effective way to control costs, he said.
On the other hand, he faulted President Barack Obama for not acknowledging that changes are needed in the Affordable Care Act. While the law moves the situation forward, Clancy said, it doesn’t do enough to ensure the viability of rural hospitals or sufficiently address the way substance abuse problems are driving up health-care costs.
Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs said the debate illustrated that President Obama’s “No. 1 driving force and goal is to continue to stoke, encourage and gin up coveting, envy and greed between two groups of people.”
Small said Obama’s support for a progressive income tax system “is very damaging.”
“We don’t make the rich pay more for driver’s licenses; we don’t charge them a higher sales-tax rate; we don’t make them pay more for clothes,” Small said.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, president of Republican Mayors and Local Officials, went to Denver on Tuesday to urge the candidates to use the debate as an opportunity to address local issues, especially infrastructure.
He said he was disappointed that neither candidate spent a substantial amount of time on those issues.
Roads, bridges and sewers are a “ticking time bomb” waiting to go off in American cities, and the issue needs desperately to be addressed, he said.
Such a discussion belongs in an economic debate because the projects would create jobs, make cities more efficient economic engines for job private job creation and prevent productivity-choking breakdowns in the services businesses rely on.
On the whole, Cornett said he thought Romney clearly won the evening, but in part because he had an easier task, Cornett said.
Romney needed the American people to hear his ideas coming from his own mouth, and he took advantage of the evening to do that, Cornett said.
On the other hand, Obama had to defend a four-year record, including many things that are very hard to defend, Cornett said.
“I do think there are two different visions,” Blatt said. “A fundamental difference does come down to budget and taxes, where Gov. Romney is claiming he can balance the budget and cut taxes and not cut programs. The president just said if we’re going to get the deficit under control we’re going to need a combination of spending cuts and taxes and to do otherwise seems fanciful.”
Read more from Oklahoma leaders in Thursday's Tulsa World and on tulsaworld.com tomorrow.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, listens as President Barack Obama makes a point during their first presidential debate at the University of Denver on Wednesday evening. JOHN LEYBA/The Denver Post/ASSOCIATED PRESS