Jaro: Let’s hold debaters to their words


Jan Jaro, Columnist

Dear President Obama and Gov. Romney,

I was never much of a Sesame Street guy growing up (I know, I didn’t have much of a childhood). Even so, I’m still sorry to hear that Big Bird might disappear from my 10-month-old brother’s television screen. I’m worried about his future well-being, in addition to my own. I know that millions of Americans watching this debate had the same question running through their minds. I ask, from one concerned American to another, can I hold you to your promises?

I know that both of you are supposed to promise as many free lunches as possible, so I’ll let some of your debating points slide. Gov. Romney, we both understand that your tax cuts will not balance the budget because unwinding the financial crisis will reduce economic growth for some time. President Obama, I’ll choose to ignore your egregious assertion that Social Security is sound enough to last until my retirement. Instead, I’ll focus on the fact that both of you answered the question of jobs with essentially the same prescription: education reform, tax code simplification, and deficit reduction. President Obama, I was glad to hear that you are willing to champion community colleges and find ways to connect graduates to jobs. These hard-working, blue-collar Americans will be the backbone of our recovery and the global, information-based society that is the 21st century paradigm. Gov. Romney, you are absolutely right to point out that deficits are literally a moral issue. One weakness of our political system is moral hazard in the entitlements system; voters can give themselves extravagant benefits that future generations pay for and I am happy to hear that you and Mr. Ryan are asking us to discipline ourselves. At the end of the day, though, will you find common ground and deliver on these promises or will you skirt on them?

I understand that neither of you want to announce the winners and losers of your promises on national television. Nevertheless, one of you will need to tackle the big issues you decided to leave unanswered. President Obama, if re-elected, are you willing to take on teachers’ unions and weaken or remove tenure for non-performing teachers? Gov. Romney, many Americans (including myself) want to be reassured that if we do vote for you, we will not see undue increases in our healthcare costs. With fewer doctors per people than many developed countries, will you take steps to increase medical school funding and alleviate floors on the number of licensed doctors? These are but a sample of the fundamental issues that are ailing our economy. We’ve barely scratched the surface on big issues such as increasing research productivity, forging international agreements on pollution taxes or managing a multipolar world order. Gov. Romney, while you are onto something when you promise to delegate work to more qualified people, I’m not sure what your values are because you seem to contradict yourself between progressivism and focusing on incentives. President Obama, I’m not particularly convinced by your record either. If Dodd-Frank is your crown jewel of reform, then I’m not sure that I want to re-elect a candidate whose main achievement was to pass 848 pages of ineffective regulation. When we vote for you on Nov. 6, I and many Americans want to be sure that we are not determined to vote you out of office in four years (or in the President’s case, vote Ryan/Rubio in 2016).

Your energetic policy debate tonight reflects well on the excellent training you received from your days in Harvard Law School and I am glad to see that both of you will bring gusto to your four-year stint in the White House. While both of you referenced economists in your arguments, I am sure that many will be scratching their heads — if not frantically typing editorials and lecture notes pointing out the flaws in your proposed policies. Nevertheless, both of you made some excellent points and managed to largely agree on how to improvement employment in America. But as a voter, what I need to know is if you’ll follow through on your stump speeches and turn your good ideas into real policy. At the end of the day, the votes that decide which of you becomes president might not be decided on ideological differences but whether or not we believe you’ll actually do the good things you say you’ll do.

A worried voter

Jan Jaro is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at janjaro2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to forum@dailynorthwestern.com.