Editorial: The questions all candidates must answer

Published: 3/31/2019 12:05:12 AM

Visits to New Hampshire by declared and potential presidential contenders have become a near-daily occurrence. What questions should they be prepared to answer?

Democrats should be asked not about President Donald Trump – everyone knows who and what he is by now – but about their plans to address the issues people care about most. Candidates challenging the president for the Republican nomination, if any emerge from the small group that’s considering it, among them former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, don’t have that choice. They’ll have to engage and draw distinctions between themselves and the president.

First on the list of questions: What exactly is your prescription for health care? The availability of affordable health care is the most important issue facing most households. The Trump administration, by backing yet another attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act, is driving in reverse, steering with their knees and offering no plan to replace the insurance that provides coverage to more than 20 million Americans.

Should the Affordable Care Act be improved or expanded, or should the nation move swiftly toward universal health care? If the latter, where would the money come from? Are there other options? What steps would you take to lower prescription drug costs?

Next on the list, climate change and how to slow and ultimately reverse it. No issue, polls suggest, is more important to young voters. Time has grown too short for vague answers. Does the candidate, Democratic or Republican, support a tax on carbon emissions that’s big enough to change behavior? Can a transition to a zero-emissions future be accomplished without damaging the economy? We believe it can.

Much of the world is on the move and climate change will force even more people to migrate. For decades the nation has failed to agree on a fair and humane immigration policy. Where on a spectrum that ranges from amnesty to a taller, longer border wall and mass deportation are you as a candidate?

Without ranking them – every voter would probably list the issues in a different order – candidates should be asked about their positions on the following:

– The gross disparity in income between those at the top and everyone else and how to address it. Should the tax code be changed so the wealthy pay more? If so, how much more? Close loopholes, raise rates or both?

– Student debt and the cost of higher education is a burden holding down an entire generation. How would you lift it? How would you pay for your proposal?

– Rust Belt cities and rural America have been left behind. The situation is particularly grim for the nation’s farmers, who have been hurt by Trump’s tariffs and the near-monopoly power of the agribusiness companies that sell them seed and fertilizer and purchase their crops for the lowest possible price. Would you support laws that give farmers more bargaining power? Should farmers who adopt agricultural practices that sequester carbon in their fields be paid to do so?

– Mass shootings have become a regular occurrence. The deadliest are carried out with weapons designed for war. Should such weapons continue to be available to everyone who passes a background check?

■There remains no plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. What is your plan? Where would the money come from?

Plenty of issues could move up the list in the 19 months before the presidential election: the need to protect Social Security and Medicare, tougher political corruption laws, campaign finance reform, how to improve race relations, a strategy to cope with the automation that’s eliminating jobs.

A candidate worthy of your vote should be able to address them all.

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