If Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s selection of Toledo as his preparation site for next week’s debate is meant to signal Ohio’s importance in the Nov. 4 election, is it fair to expect a discussion about the state’s loss of high-paid manufacturing jobs over the past five years?
Of course it is.
And, should we want Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain to spend some time talking about regions like the Mahoning Valley that have been struggling for almost three decades to recover from the demise of heavy industry — in our case steel?
Yes, we should.
Finally, we want the two candidates to continue the give-and-take they began on health care during their debate last Tuesday, with particular focus on how the escalating cost is affecting the competitiveness of America’s manufacturers.
The presence of General Motors Corp. in the Mahoning Valley has made residents acutely aware of the disadvantage domestic auto makers have because of health care costs. GM’s CEO Rick Wagoner has said on many occasions that his company must add at least $1,500 to the production cost of each unit, which means that foreign car makers have a $1,500 cost advantage right off the bat.
Wagoner and his colleagues at Ford and Chrysler have testified before Congress about the uneven playing field, but they have stopped short of calling for any kind of national health care program.
Given that there does not appear to be much support for such a major change from the current health care system, we believe the two presidential candidates must provide details on how their proposals would address the concerns voiced by Wagoner and others.
Wednesday will be the last time Obama and McCain share the stage in the run up to the general election. They have a responsibility to clearly articulate their views on job-creation, the ever-growing trade imbalance between the U.S, and its main trading partners, the increasing cost of health care, especially to small businesses that provide employees with health insurance, and regions like the Mahoning Valley that were left behind during the nation’s economic heyday and now are struggling more than others with the current economic crisis.
With less than a month before the election, the tone of the campaign has turned negative and substance has given way to sound bites.
In light of the national and global economic collapse, the growing domestic jobless rate, and the exploding federal budget deficit and national debt, the American people, especially those who are still undecided about the presidential race, deserve to hear how the next president will address these and other problems that are contributing to instability at home and abroad.
Wednesday’s debate could be a defining moment in this campaign, or it could add to the public’s disillusionment.
The American people need to be reassured that the country will be in competent hands come January. Obama and McCain have one last chance to show they are up to the challenge.