The economy, a topic that has dominated American politics for nearly a decade, is increasingly fading into the background of the presidential race.
From The Hill
Ever since the financial crisis of 2008, voters have consistently ranked the economy as one of their top concerns. That trend carried over into polling of the 2016 race.
But in the home stretch of a heated election, discussion of the economy is falling by the wayside.
Of the 25 questions in the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, six were devoted to the economy, including tax policy. The total fell even further in the vice presidential debate, when just two questions out of 19 touched on the economy.
The economy was nearly missing in action during the second presidential debate Sunday night, when just one of 23 questions touched on the economy by covering tax policy.
As a point of comparison, the 2012 town hall debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney covered a wide array of economic issues, including gas prices, the gender pay gap and job outsourcing. Of the 9 questions posed by the audience, two thirds were related to the economy.
Experts are frustrated by the lack of substantive economic and fiscal talk from the candidates.
“The economy has gotten short shrift in the debates, particularly given that the economy is on the top of most people’s list of concerns,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “Hopefully we can hear more about what the candidates have in mind to lift the economy’s future performance for everyone in the final debate.”
A CBS News/New York Times poll found the economy and jobs to be the top issue for most voters, narrowly edging out national security and terrorism.
But the raucous 2016 campaign has veered sharply away policy debates, with a steady stream of campaign controversies, fueled in part by Trump’s bombastic style, dominating news coverage.
Sunday’s debate veered even further away from traditional campaign fare, as candidates fielded questions about groping women, deleting emails and Islamophobia.
“The focus is so much on politics, perhaps understandably in this unprecedented kind of election,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “But policy matters. … It’s really disappointing.”
On the campaign stump, both candidates still hammer hard on pet economic issues. Trump criticizes trade deals, while Clinton is sticking with her vow to raise taxes on the wealthy to help the middle class.
But on the debate stage, the campaign has resembled a reality show, with personal attacks, controversies and rebuttals dominating the discussion.
Trump has fielded at least as many questions during the debates about his refusal to release his tax returns than on his actual tax policy.
And cybersecurity conversations have pivoted around Clinton’s personal email use and Trump’s inclinations towards Russia.
“This is a campaign that’s filled with tantalizing titillating topics that might be more fun than actuarial balances,” said MacGuineas. “Striking the right balance is a real challenge.”
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