Does the YouTube generation care about jobs? You bet. Did that come across at Monday night's debate? Not at all.
Two things are clear to me after the debate: jobs and economic issues will continue to get short shrift in the televised debates, and the "direct questioning" format tested Monday night will not solve the problem.
Jobs and the economy consistently show up as the number three concern of voters. But questions on these important issues were strangely absent from Monday's CNN/YouTube debate. Are YouTube enthusiasts so different from the rest of America that they don't feel any anxiety about their economic future? A quick look at some of the video entries reveals that YouTubers are indeed anxious.
I spent less than a half hour surfing some of the 3,000 video entries and found plenty of thoughtful questions that could have been asked about jobs, trade, outsourcing and China. There was a remarkably poignant plea from Oakdale, California related to the loss of their largest employer, Hershey Foods, to Mexico. Or this question from a young man about America's economic policy towards China.
So are the folks at CNN who screened the questions really that out of touch? There was some very curious filtering. I'll bet that any of the candidates would have rather answered one of those outsourcing questions than being prodded to identify traits they liked and disliked about the candidate to their left
It is a credit to unions that hold the candidates' feet to the fire on jobs issues, like the Steelworkers did at a forum in Cleveland earlier this month. But it is a shame that the only opportunities for candidates to focus on economic issues tend to be in front of labor audiences.
Every American has a stake in the outcome. What about our record trade deficit that impacts our economic growth and future employment opportunities? Who is going to protect American consumers from unsafe products? How are we going to revitalize manufacturing in this nation?
At the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we are keeping a running tab on jobs and trade issues in the debates. Of the 500-plus questions asked so far, the Democrats have received exactly one question (on outsourcing at last month's PBS debate) and the Republicans exactly two on jobs and trade.
There's an extraordinary disconnect. In Congress, ensuring that our manufacturers and workers have the opportunity to benefit and compete in the global marketplace is receiving significant attention. I'm testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on our trade relationship with China on Wednesday. Before the end of this month, there may be some movement in House and Senate committees on legislation designed to end China's practice of pegging its currency to the dollar, which makes its goods artificially cheap in the U.S. and our goods artificially expensive in China.
But just as John Edwards identified big pharmaceutical and insurance companies as standing in the way of real health care change in this nation, some big, vested interests also oppose real changes in our trade policy, so the outcome is far from clear. Apparently the outsourcers and manipulators also have the ear of the question screeners at CNN. Looks like we need real, big change in our debates, as well.
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