Aug 24, 2023 - Economy & Business

GOP presidential debate offers little economic insight

Illustration of an elephant balancing on a quarter.  

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Republican voters told Fox News pollsters that the economy is their main concern, topping crime and immigration. But Wednesday night's debate offered precious little substance on economic policy.

Why it matters: It was an opportunity squandered.

Recap: To their credit, the Fox News moderators did open with questions about the economy. To their demerit, many of the candidates only paid the issue lip service, or detoured entirely.

  • Yes, there were numerous references to inflation, which has scorched under President Biden.
  • But no real suggestions for how to reduce it, save for generic GOP chestnuts like cutting federal spending and loosening domestic energy production rules (on that last point, U.S. crude oil production is at a record high). There wasn't even a creative new tax policy offered, which may be a first for this sort of forum.
  • Nor did any candidates wrestle with how rates coming down, including for home mortgages, could be married to a slowdown in economic growth. Or thorny issues like white collar job automation, the recent surge in organized labor strikes or what an economic slowdown in China would mean here at home.
  • And, of course, no one mentioned that America's GDP continues to grow, despite recession predictions, while its unemployment rate remains historically low.

Meanwhile, over on TwiX, former President Trump talked with Tucker Carlson for 46 minutes without any economic discussion whatsoever.

  • This is despite Trump recently pledging to implement a 10% tariff on all foreign goods sold in the U.S.

The bottom line: Debates obviously aren't policy papers, and each candidate's main objective last night was to stand out from the pack. But it would have been nice if someone had offered at least one or two new ideas aimed at what voters claim to care most about.

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