Like most Americans, I didn’t watch the staged media spectacle better known as the Presidential Debate. It is not just because I didn’t have a dog in that fight; it is because to me the quadrennial political mini-series is nothing more than a rigged, wasteful use of an hour and a half of prime time television.
First of all, it is not really a debate but a glorified press conference. Journalists hurl softball questions at the candidates giving each the opportunity to regurgitate their perfectly rehearsed sound bites. Wouldn’t it be more worthwhile if Obama and Romney were allowed to go toe to toe by stating their positions, asking each other questions, and arguing the merits of their positions without any filtering from an aloof journalist moderator? Better yet, wouldn’t it be more worthwhile if other candidates were allowed to participate and give Americans a chance to hear views other than the sanctioned Establishment line.
Then there is the fact that once again the major parties have nominated two candidates for president who are quite similar. Whether it’s Social Security, corporate bailouts, endless wars, or government spending, Obama and Romney agree more than disagree on most issues. Isn’t it time that other views besides the one that has gotten us into our economic mess, endless wars, and erosion of constitutional liberties be allowed to be heard?
Lastly, as is always the case in the debates, several important issues were totally avoided. What about our military’s continued drone war that has left hundreds of civilians dead in Pakistan? What about the failed War on Drugs that has made America the number one jailor in the world? Okay, the first debate’s focus was domestic policy, so killing innocent foreigners was outside that realm, but the violence engendered, the lives ruined, and the constitutional liberties destroyed by Washington’s decades’ long insane drug policy could have been broached.
Then there was the avoidance of the gravest issue currently facing our country – namely the role the Federal Reserve plays in our economy.
"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes the laws."
Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founding father of international finance
And yet, in an hour and a half debate on domestic policy, the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, and quantitative easing were not mentioned a single time. The Federal Reserve, the institution whose job it has been to protect the value of the dollar, has been responsible for the greenback losing 95 percent of its value since 1914. Ben Bernanke, who has perhaps more influence over the economy than anyone else in Washington, doesn’t seem to have a clue about how the economy works. He has a history of totally missing the mark with predictions. This includes everything from, "At this juncture, however, the impact on the broader economy and financial markets of the problems in the subprime market seems likely to be contained", on March 28, 2007 to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, "…will make it through the storm" to his stating that "The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession" on January 10, 2008 as the economy was spiraling into a massive downturn. These were not little misses.
But perhaps the greatest dereliction of presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer in the debate was not asking the candidates anything about the Fed’s failed quantitative easing programs. How can that be since Bernanke just announced that QE3 will last in perpetuity?
The Fed has already expanded the size of its balance sheet by 223 percent so far by buying financial assets from banks. In so doing, it has injected trillions of dollars into the reserve accounts of those banks. But, these purchases have not produced a healthy economy like Bernanke predicted. In fact, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser expressed a negative view of Bernanke policy recently when he indicated that, "Inflation is going to occur when excess reserves of this huge balance sheet begin to flow outside into the real economy”. For his part, Bernanke has always maintained that he possesses the know-how and tools to siphon out excess liquidity to prevent inflation when the time comes. But, Plosser doubts the Fed will be able to act boldly enough since it has “absolutely zero experience” unwinding what has been put in place.
Given the state of continuous quantitative easing that our economy has been subject to, its utter failure to accomplish its stated goal, and the dour forecast by the Philly Fed Chairman as to what will result, how was this not an important area of inquiry for Lehrer to pursue with Obama and Romney?
At the end of the day, the so-called presidential debates are a waste of time. Run by the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, no candidates other than their own Republican and Democratic nominees are permitted to participate. Given that both are usually quite similar in their positions, the American people are provided with little choice. Finally, because many critically important issues are avoided, the debates contribute very little to the national dialogue on what needs to happen to turn our country around. For that hour and a half we would be better off if the networks had aired reruns of the most popular mini-series instead.
Article first published as The So-Called Presidential Debates Are a Waste of Time on Blogcritics.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina