With two debates down and two to go, there's a lot of talk about who's winning and losing, about "style points" and, of course, intense scrutiny on what's been said. But let's take a moment to reflect on what hasn't been discussed or hasn't gotten nearly enough attention at the halfway point of the debate cycle:
The Fed & Ben Bernanke
There have been two debates and no mention of the Federal Reserve? How is that possible? The economy is the biggest issue of this campaign and the Fed is playing a huge role in the economy so it's hard to fathom that not one question has been asked about Ben Bernanke & Co. and none of the candidates have brought up the central bank.
One theory is that the "average" American doesn't care about the Fed, know what it does or who Ben Bernanke is. I think that underestimates the intelligence of the American people. They might not understand the intricacies of monetary policy but they do know they're getting almost no return on money markets and CDs and that a zero interest rate policy is highly abnormal.
Moreover, Ron Paul rose to national prominence in large part because of his criticism of the Fed and his "audit the Fed" bill passed the House this summer.
Some believe the politicians don't want to mention the Fed because Bernanke's easy money is letting them get away with not seriously dealing with the deficit; all the more reason to have the discussion in these debates.
In sum, it's a black mark on both moderators and all four candidates that Fed policy — and Ben Bernanke's future — hasn't been the topic of intense debate.
How to Fix Housing
Arguably the most important economic indicator, housing has shown signs of life. Friday morning, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said "housing has turned the corner," a view supported by trends in home prices, starts and permits as well as the drop in foreclosures.
Vice President Biden referenced the Obama administration's efforts to help homeowners last night — "we moved in and helped people refinance their homes," he said — and chided Republicans for allegedly blocking legislation that would "help 14 million people who are struggling to stay in their homes because their mortgages are upside down, but they never missed a mortgage payment."
It would've been nice to hear a discussion about whether the administration's efforts really have helped homeowners and, conversely, what the Romney-Ryan plan is to help ensure the nascent, still-fragile, housing recovery takes hold.
Rising Gasoline Prices
Gas prices are at or near record levels, which is the ultimate pocketbook issue for millions of Americans.
In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney mentioned that "gasoline prices have doubled under the president."
But most of the discussion that night was about U.S. energy policy and whether or not President Obama deserves credit (or blame) for the increase in domestic drilling.
There was zero mention of gas prices in last night's VP debate, or rising food prices for that matter; that's a missed opportunity and belies the notion that the candidates are really focused on issues that matter to the middle class.
Let me know what you think: Are there other issues the candidates should be paying more attention to? Or do you feel like the debates so far really have focused on the "right" issues?
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