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A Guide to the Denver Presidential Debate

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China. Tires. Outsourcing. Sweatshops. Auto parts. Currency manipulation. Made in America. Manufacturing. Cheaters.



All these words and ideas have a prominent place in the 2012 election. In our view, rightfully so. But the charges and counter-charges, the attack ads and responses, have done little to help define where President Obama and Mitt Romney truly stand on these issues. Will the Denver debate shed any light on these topics? We know half the debate will focus on economic themes. Let's hope Jim Lehrer asks at least one of these vital questions.

  1. What would you do to prevent American tax dollars from creating jobs overseas?
  2. Do you support strong trade enforcement when other nations cheat?
  3. Do you believe that our trade deficit with China is a national security issue?
  4. What actions would you take to penalize China for its currency manipulation and would it include supporting legislation that has passed the Senate and is supported by a majority of members in the House?
IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS FOR EACH CANDIDATE:
 

A) Buy America Preferences. The construction materials for several, recent high-profile infrastructure projects have been outsourced to China, including massive amounts of steel for the new Bay Bridge linking Oakland and San Francisco.

QUESTION FOR GOVERNOR ROMNEY:
Governor Romney, the decision to outsource the steel for the Bay Bridge was made by a Republican Governor to save money, though the final benefit to taxpayers has been heavily questioned after delivery delays, faulty welding, and cost overruns. You have said you would bar procurement from China until it opens its market for our goods. Do you agree with Governor Schwarzenegger's decision to buy Chinese steel or do you support a strict Buy America preference to keep tax dollars invested here?

QUESTION FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: President Obama, Republicans have been highly critical of your stimulus bill, which they say is creating jobs in other countries. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called it the "ultimate sin." When asked about Buy America in the Recovery Act, you cautioned against "protectionism" and said, "I think we need to make sure that any provisions that are in there are not going to trigger a trade war." Do you support Buy America preferences for government spending and infrastructure projects?

B) Trade Enforcement.
The U.S. has laws on the books to level the playing field when other countries cheat to gain an unfair advantage in trade, but critics warn that using these tools could spur a trade war. Others argue that weak enforcement of these trade remedies has left American manufacturing exposed. You have both run TV ads pledging to be tougher on China than your opponent.

QUESTION FOR GOVERNOR ROMNEY:
Governor Romney, you have said you don't want a trade war, but won't settle for trade surrender. However, you criticized President Obama's decision to impose tariffs on Chinese tires. Also, your opponents say you closed factories and outsourced jobs during your time at Bain Capital. Where do you stand on using our trade enforcement tools to counter illegal subsidies, dumping, and other unfair trade?

QUESTION FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:
President Obama, your administration recently created a trade enforcement unit to investigate and respond to unfair trade. The first action was a major trade enforcement action at the World Trade Organization with China on auto parts. Is this a signal that you would push for more aggressive enforcement of our trade laws, including cased initiated by the administration, in a second term?

C) National Security.
Much attention has been paid to budget deficits and America's long-term fiscal concerns, but much less is said about America's trade deficit. Our trade deficit with China has climbed sharply from $83 billion in 2001 when it joined the World Trade Organization to a record $295 billion in 2011.

Another issue that is getting significant attention is China's emergence as a military power. China's defense budget has increased sharply, from $17 billion in 2001 to $106 billion in 2012. They recently launched their first aircraft carrier.

QUESTION FOR BOTH CANDIDATES:
To both President Obama and Governor Romney, is there a connection here between our trade deficit and our national security? If so, what structural reforms to our trading relationship would you undertake to bring the trade deficit under control?

D) China's currency manipulation.
China manipulates the value of its currency to gain an artificial, unfair trade advantage over American-made goods. Currency manipulation acts as a subsidy for Chinese-made products entering our market and as a tax on our exports to China.

QUESTION FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:
President Obama, four years ago you said, "...what we need to do is to just be better bargainers and say look, here's the bottom line, you guys keep on manipulating your currency, we are going to start shutting off access to some of our markets." However, you have declined to cite China as a currency manipulator seven times. President Obama, is this a failed campaign promise or have you done enough to address China's currency manipulation in your first term?

QUESTION FOR GOVERNOR ROMNEY:
Governor Romney, you, too, have made a campaign pledge to penalize China for currency manipulation. On day one, you say you will sign an executive order citing them as a currency manipulator. You've criticized President Obama for not turning campaign rhetoric into action, so why should the American people believe that you would actually follow through with meaningful penalties to level the playing field?

QUESTION FOR BOTH CANDIDATES:
And, to both of you, would you sign legislation that has already passed the Senate and has the support of a majority of members in the House?

  Obama Romney
Obama Romney
332 206
Obama leading
Obama won
Romney leading
Romney won
Popular Vote
33 out of 100 seats are up for election. 51 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Holdover
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats* Republicans
Current Senate 53 47
Seats gained or lost +2 -2
New Total 55 45
* Includes two independent senators expected to caucus with the Democrats: Angus King (Maine) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).
All 435 seats are up for election. 218 are needed for a majority.
Democrat leading
Democrat won
Republican leading
Republican won
Democrats Republicans
Seats won 201 234
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