Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

August 31, 2013

Some questions for the candidates — and voters

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI

FRANKFORT — Is anyone inspired by the U.S. Senate race and the level of discourse between incumbent Republican Mitch McConnell, tea party challenger Matt Bevin and likely Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes?

All we’ve heard so far are character attacks, rhymes with names, ringing bells, and misinformation on health care, the national debt and deficit, and the coal industry.

So here are some suggested questions for the candidates – and voters.

If you want “Obamacare” repealed at any cost as Bevin says he does, do you have an alternative or would you leave 40 million people without health insurance and at risk of death or financial ruin? If you think parts of it are worth keeping – as both McConnell and Grimes have said – which parts would you retain and which would you jettison?

How do you require coverage for pre-existing conditions and prohibit caps on lifetime benefits without the individual mandate? If the choice is between the values of Adam Smith and those of Jesus, should we always choose the former or might we use some of both?

McConnell says President Obama has run up more debt than all 43 previous presidents combined. Who was the last president to do that? Wasn’t it George W. Bush and didn’t a senator from Kentucky round up votes for most of those spending policies?

Grimes wants a balanced budget amendment “so we never go into debt again.” Is that realistic? Only once in our history have we paid the national debt down to zero. That was 1836 under President Andrew Jackson and it was followed by a major economic depression in 1837. Bevin should answer the same question. Can you name a major developed country that has no debt?

Everybody loves coal and hates Obama’s so-called war on coal. But, given that most of the country seems to have made up its mind that it’s time to move away from coal and the free market seems to headed in the same direction, how do you support Kentucky’s mining economy without leaving Kentucky holding an empty bag or avoid the poverty and environmental destruction coal seems to leave in its wake?

Is the coal industry, which has a long history of indifference to miners’ health and safety and the environment, in need of any reform at all? If it’s such an economic benefit, why are so many coal-mining regions so poor?

Grimes promises to protect our seniors from cuts to Medicare and Social Security while at the same time calling for a balanced budget. McConnell is right when he says entitlements make up two-thirds of federal spending. So how do we protect seniors and balance the budget simultaneously? The answers are relatively few: cut benefits, raise taxes to pay for the programs, or cut other area of the budget and transfer those savings to entitlements. Which does each candidate propose?

How should the country deal with the growing gap between the rich and the rest of us? Are we pricing a college education out of reach of all but the well-to-do? Kentucky lags in health and education measurements. How can Kentucky ever be competitive if those don’t change; what can you do to effect such a change; and won’t it cost something?

How much privacy must we surrender to feel safe in an age of terrorism and incredible technological change? Must one agree with a specific political ideology to be “a real American?” Should it really be harder to vote in this country than to purchase a weapon?

Do you have anything to offer except negative attacks on opponents? If so, how long must we wait?

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com