The GOP continues its search tonight for a candidate they want to lead a government all of the contestants swear they hate. Tonight’s debate, sponsored by Politico and MSNBC begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern and will be held in the Ronald Reagan Library. I met Reagan once when he was Governor; he’s the cigarette/appliance spokesman and conservative whom the Tea Party would find insufficiently radical to suit them.

I’ve seen several pre-debate analyses, and the accepted style seems to be to list questions or things to watch for in the debate. These typically follow the form of “Will Governor X attack Governor Y?” or “Can irrelevant candidate Z say something so clownish that she stands out among several other clowns?” or “If candidate R utters an otherwise rational statement, will anyone notice or just ignore him?” I suppose there’s a place for that, or not.

Not quite in that spirit, here’s my list of questions I’d like to see answered.

1. Studies indicate that economic and jobs growth in various states, including those in which some of you were/are governors, was helped by substantial federal funding. They also suggest that many states were able to balance their budgets during the downturn and avoid more severe budget cuts, tax hikes and state worker layoffs by relying of federal stimulus funds and other federal assistance. Did that happen in your state?

In light of this shared experience, do you think the federal government has a legitimate role to play in helping states get through the current economic downturn, and if not, how would your state have handled the loss of federal support?

2. Numerous business surveys have consistently found that the primary reason businesses are not hiring more is because they don’t see sufficient demand for their products and services. None of these surveys lists either tax uncertainty or regulatory uncertainty as a major reason for not hiring. Do you believe the businesses that respond to these surveys are wrong, and if so, what is the source for your view? If the business surveys are correct, what if anything would you support as a means to increase demand?

3. Have you noticed that the U.S. has, just this year, experienced record droughts and record wild fires in some areas, and record storms and flooding in other areas, extreme temperatures and other weather or climate-related disasters? How do you account for these extreme events?

Do you think it is prudent to discount various scientific claims there is a relationship to global climate change? Do you believe it would be prudent for government to support further scientific examination of such possible connections?

4. As a result of these severe natural disasters, many communities, businesses and homeowners in your respective states have suffered major damage. Some of you have requested federal assistance for your states in dealing with these events and the damage they cause. Do you agree the federal government has a legitimate role to play in helping businesses, citizens and governments prepare for and recover from such disasters?

5. There is a debate about whether such federal emergency assistance should be provided only if the costs of such assistance are offset by reduced funding of other government spending. Is it your position that when disasters strike in your state, federal assistance should only be provided if and when Congress reaches agreement on equivalent offsets? Does it make sense to do this by cutting back provision of emergency relief to other areas from previous disasters?

6. There has been discussion of the merits of monetary policies that tend to result in reducing the value of the dollar relative to the currencies in other countries, such as China. What is your position about whether it’s good for the US economy, or harmful to the US economy, to devalue the dollar against, e.g., the Chinese yuan? Are net exports good or bad for the economy?

7. As a result of budget problems, many states have chosen to lay off teachers, firemen, police and other public workers. Over a half million such public workers have lost their jobs in the current economic downturn. Do you believe it is wise for states to layoff teachers, first responders? Is your position justified whenever states could avoid such lay offs by raising taxes on the wealthy? Or would it make more sense for the federal government to provide assistance to help avoid these choices?

8. Studies have consistently shown that health care provided under Medicare costs less than care provided through private insurance systems. If that is true, then what economic justification is there for raising the eligibility age for Medicare from its current age 65 to age 67 or higher? Would it not increase the total economic cost of caring for those in this age group? Do you believe that President Obama should be criticized in 2012 if he supports such a reduction in Medicare?

9. Please explain your understanding of how Social Security is funded. What role does the payroll tax play? The Trust Fund? Since the Social Security Administration’s annual reports indicate Social Security is fully funded through at least 2037 or so, and about 80 percent funded beyond that, but virtually no other federal program is funded beyond this year’s budget, do you believe claims that Social Security is bankrupt? Unsustainable? A “ponzi scheme”? Is Social Security constitutional?

10. Do you believe it is in the national security interests of the United States to retain any combat troops in Iraq beyond the end of this year? Do you believe it is in the national security interests of the United States to continue combat operations in Afghanistan? Pakistan? Do you believe the Executive should obtain a war resolution or other Congressional sanction for engaging in hostilities in other countries, such as Libya, Yemen, Somalia, etc?

11. Raise your hand if you did not understand any of these questions.

[photo: darkuncle]