The senior economic advisers to the twoleadingpresidential candidates met Monday night in Columbia University'sRoone Arledge auditorium to debate the merits of their candidates plans to salvage the American economy.
Sponsored by the Program for Economic Research and moderated by economics professor Donald Davis, the event allowed for Sen. John McCains (R-Ariz.) adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Sen. Barack Obamas (D-Ill.) Austan Goolsbee to face off over spending, the bailout and federal tax policy.
With the election two weeks away, the economy is the number one issue on the minds of Americans, said Columbia U. President Lee Bollinger said in his opening remarks. The candidates plans, he explained, were especially important in light of such new American perils as lower standards of living, joblessness and a deficiency of basic human conditions.
Goolsbee opened the debate with praise for Obamas anticipation of the financial crisis, citing a speech the senator gave last September warning about the looming financial dangers. This financial crisis has documented that he is calm and on top of the issues, he said. He also stressed direct tax relief for the middle class and the need to invest in long-term infrastructure rather than focusing only on the current Wall Street crisis.
Voters are faced with real choices, Holtz-Eakin told the audience, as they are manifested in the policies and characters of the candidates. Despite his Republican affiliation, he described the Bush administrations tenure as eight years of spending hand over fist and lauded the Balanced Budget Act passed by President Clinton and Congress in the 1990s.
McCain, he explained, hopes to encourage businesses to create jobs in America by lowering their operation costs. If headquarters are here and research and development, he said, manufacturing will be here.
The conversation shifted to the divergence in tax policy between the candidates, with Holtz-Eakin decrying health care costs as the largest impediment to keeping businesses competitive.
Goolsbee argued that McCains policies would increase the national deficit. Eighty to 90 percent of the people in the country are facing a squeeze, he said. Regardless of what you may think the cause of that squeeze is, its undeniable and you do not use tax policy to pile on top of that squeeze.
The debate had a few contentious moments. While Holtz-Eakin accused the Obama campaign of promising money to everyone they encountered on the campaign trail, Goolsbee sometimes openly mocked Holtz-Eakins positions. And this part of the debate is brought to you by Aleve, he said, because every time I try to understand McCains positions, I get a headache.
To Juan Aristi, Business 09, this was less than admirable. Goolsbee, Aristi said, came off as a bit of a performer who at times got a little bit carried away. But the overall debate, he said, went deeper into the issues than those between the presidential candidates.
Gregory Feldman, SEAS 12, found Goolsbee to be articulate and intelligent and agreed that the event was aimed at a more specialized audience than the national debates. It was, he said, tailored to a specific audience of people who understand economics.