If you were checking out the baseball playoffs, or avoiding reality by watching reality television, you missed quite a debate between the vice-presidential nominees. This was a classic bout of politics versus policy, and the verbal judo match had its fair share of jabs, eye gouges and low blows. The dialogue was focused mostly on foreign policy which was devoid from the first presidential debate. Traditionally vice-presidents do not have large roles in foreign policy so it was a bit odd they spent most of the evening discussing what is happening abroad instead of the true threats we are facing domestically. The real threat is spending, particularly health care spending on entitlement programs.
Only about 10 percent of the debate was focused on the Affordable Care Act and growing entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid. The Joint Chiefs of Staff said that the biggest threat to the United States is not a foreign adversary, it is our national debt. We face a fiscal cliff at the end of the year which is full of automatic spending cuts and tax increases. Chronic disease continues to explode health care spending and reduce productivity of the American workforce. Finally healthcare costs spiraling out of control threaten businesses who are struggling to stay afloat let alone continue to offer health insurance. Even more problematic are the penalties and compliance requirements many firms face through health reform implementation.
My analysis was the candidates fought to a draw, the format was boring and they did not focus long enough on the issues most American’s care about right now. Biden is a professional debater and prior to serving as Vice-President was a United States Senator for over 30 years. He has been around the block and is a solid politician at ease in situations like this and it showed. Paul Ryan is the opposite. He’s a policy wonk and needs polish, but did well in his first major league political event, particularly on foreign policy. This was a topic one would expect Biden to come away as the winner having served as chair to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and having access to intelligence the Congressman probably does not. Both sides had their own objective and both executed what they were supposed to do.
There are no distractions like big bird this week, but the takeaway will likely be the behavior of the Vice-President. He was extremely animated and his strategy was to be in full attack mode. He often interrupted Congressman Ryan as much as 82 times during the event. When constant interruptions like this become prevalent it is difficult for the audience to follow the conversation, and immediate reaction from undecided voters shows more questions than answers.
If you have questions about healthcare and the future of the country, I encourage you to listen to America’s Healthcare Challenge on 1110 KFAB. The last podcast has reaction from the previous debate and this week we will dive into the issue of Medicare. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it has an impact on you. For more, surf around Health Reform Explained.com, and follow me on twitter @SeanMMcGuire.