3. Investment and Jobs: Obama talks a lot about public investment but I rarely hear him talk about encouraging broad private investment, which best produces lasting growth. Moreover, he never says anything about reforming public investment - for example, by doing away with the Davis-Bacon Act that requires paying union wages on public projects. Romney never talks about public investment - for instance, the estimated 10-year need for $2 trillion for roads, bridges, water projects, etc. And Republican Rep. Paul Ryan's budget calls for slashing domestic spending and entitlements from 13 percent of the GDP now to 6.6 percent in 10 years.
4. Inequality: A 2011 Congressional Budget Office study showed that from 1979 to 2007, the income of the top 1 percent of earners increased 275 percent to just 40 percent for the middle fifth. More disturbing, the median income of U.S. households was lower in 2011 than in 1996. Taxing the rich, as Obama wants to do, won't change this long-term trend, which is producing a country where the wealthy and well-educated have an enormous advantage over everybody else. What's to be done?
5. Education: It's a big part of the answer, yet after 30 years of talk about education reform, U.S. kids rank 25th in math, 14th in reading and 17th in science among advanced countries. Only a third of high school graduates are proficient in those subjects and nearly 50 percent aren't ready for college work. In 20 years, our population will be half "of color," but half of kids "of color" don't finish high school. Obama and Romney favor school reform, but where is it on their priority list? And will they smite the teachers unions, which protect inept adults at the expense of kids?
6. Immigration: Is Romney still for "self-deportation"? Will Obama work for comprehensive immigration reform - but, if he can't get it, accept giving green cards to foreign Ph.D.s?
7. Health Care: What will Romney replace Obamacare with? How will Obama pay for the higher-than-estimated costs that always accompany new entitlements?
8. The Next Generation: Social Security and Medicare, programs for seniors (who vote) make up 50 percent of federal spending. Programs for kids (who don't vote), only 8 percent. What will the candidates do to adjust the balance?
I honestly don't know what Alan Simpson's answers to every question would be, but if I don't get some good ones from Obama and Romney, I'll take a chance.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.