What would you give up?

There’s a good reason MPR’s Gary Eichten is in Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame. After five Senate debates, three presidential debates, and one vice presidential debate, only Eichten got a candidate to answer the question: If you had to, what of your campaign’s agenda would you give up?

Begrudgingly, Al Franken answered the question in last night’s debate, no doubt knowing that it could easily be turned against him. He said Early Childhood Education. Dean Barkley didn’t answer the question, even though he could have said he’d sacrifice elements of his health care plan, or his energy plan, both of which likely would include some government expense.

Norm Coleman said he’d be willing to give up his congresisonal pay raise; a poor answer considering that giving himself a pay raise isn’t part of his agenda on which he’s running.

At the heart of the question is the old adage that politics is the art of compromise. Of course, an old adage of poker is you don’t show your hand.

The politicians clearly aren’t interested in answering this sort of tough question. Are you?

What part of your candidate’s agenda, would you be willing to give up if you had to? Don’t answer unless you have an answer.

(Update: I’ve removed answers that don’t answer the question. If you believe it to be a bad question, don’t answer it. )

  • Mark Gisleson

    It’s a phony hyperpartisan question. Candidates ostensibly put some serious thought into their agendas, and Eichten’s gotcha question is premised by “you made a mistake with your agenda, which part of it will you cut?”

    That’s not a legitimate question unless you agree with a lot of Republican assumptions.

    1) Why are Republicans repeatedly allowed run up world record deficits that MUST then be fixed by Democrats?

    2) Why do most economists insist we have to spend our way out of a recession?

    3) Has Gary Eichten ever NOT been obsessed with money and taxes?

    Republicans loot the Treasury and then demand that Democrats kill their babies (agenda) to offset the losses. This is the fulfillment of Grover Norquist’s philosophy of shrinking government until it can be drowned in the bathtub.

    When Democrats win, why not let Democrats decide what to do? Republicans have made ZERO effort to clean up their mess, so why should they have a say so in how that mess is cleaned up?

    And seriously, Eichten shouldn’t be allowed near a microphone in the final days before an election. He did Franken plenty of favors last night, but not on purpose. Gary seemed very much in tune with Dean Barkley, and more than a bit disgusted by Norman Coleman and his fancy suits.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Btw, that question didn’t come from Gary, it came from a woman in the audience. Are you suggesting that Gary Eichten planted the very first question from the audience?

  • Bob

    I’m for Obama, and I’d have him give up the middle class tax cuts. We’re gonna need every cent we can scrounge up if we intend to right the economic ship of state anytime soon. The idea that he or anyone else can bring things around while reducing the amount of money the government takes in is a fatuous and fantastical notion.

    I’m for Franken, too, but it appalls me that he would think of giving up ECE. Someone better put Al in touch with Art Rolnick of the Federal Reserve and his ROI research regading ECE. That’s an area that needs lots more funding, not less, and is just one example of why middle class tax cuts are contra-indicated at this point in time.

  • brian

    It maybe would be a partisan question in other times, but with the economy the way it is and budget shortfalls being projected it is logical to assume that no candidate will be able to do all they promised. Asking about candidates priorities in a time like this is not only relevant, but may actually be the most important question of all. Republicans making a big mess doesn’t make it ok for Democrats to make a big mess. Our lawmakers should be able to act like mature adults.

    I personally would give up the middle class tax cut… but I don’t think that is politically possible to give up.

    I honestly think early childhood education funding is more important than higher education funding. But both are important.

    I guess I would have to post-pone health care reform. I wouldn’t give it up for good, but for the next four years at least. That is slightly a cop-out, but I hope it is a good enough answer.

  • Elizabeth T

    Give up funding for state (or any other) universities.

    Yes, I’m at student at U.Minnesota. Yes, I’m very happy that the School of Public Health has the program I’m in. The question isn’t just “do they have the program you want?” … the question is “how are they funding that program?” U of M – and just about any other “major” university – is trying too hard to be too many things to too many people. If the U didn’t have my program, I would have gone somewhere else for it.

    Cut early childhood education? No way. Cut support to the U? Sure. Be real – no one is going to be needing a quality education at the age of 18 if they didn’t get one at 4 or 5. The better educated children are, the more likely they will be able to get scholarships or other non-governmental support. Like the real world, these groups want to see quality to support it. The state government should demand the same of anyone applying to college.

    18 year olds can work and go to school. It’s hard, but it can be done. Hard work that is perfectly useful to them later in life. They can do it. You can’t stick that on a 4 year old. Leaving them in the cold just causes more financial burden on the state down the road by needing to offer more remedial courses in school and more remedial courses at university.

    So, how to cut back on university (or other institutes of higher education)? Completely eliminate any remedial courses offered. If a student needs a remedial chemistry or (god forbid) English class, send them to a local community college or other place to learn. Then come back when they are actually qualified to get into college. The cost of these courses in a university setting is far, far more expensive to both the student and the school than going to a community college-equivalent.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Bob, removing my answer was cheap in the extreme. I pointed out that this is a loaded question that assumes the candidate has a faulty agenda and that economists are wrong to insist that we fight recessions with greater spending.

    Why should Al Franken be forced to cut his agenda before he even takes office simply because Norman Coleman and Bush-Cheney couldn’t balance a budget?

    And why should you praise Gary Eichten for planting his favorite question and pretending it was supposedly coming from an audience member?

    As for cutting agendas, I think the federal and state governments should delete ALL spending on so-called public radio and TV, especially those outfits that are not, in fact, owned by the public (like MPR).

  • bsimon

    If we’re talking Senate, I’d say Barkley has to give up balancing the budget in the short term. There isn’t a practical solution during a recession that can balance the budget through budget cuts or tax increases.

    At the Presidential level, Sen Obama should give up some of his plans for health care reform. This is easy for me to argue, as his plan for healthcare reform needs improvement anyway.

    As an aside, I’ll note that Franken has reinforced my decision to ‘waste’ my vote on the Independence Party candidate. Giving up investing in our nation’s future workforce is absolutely idiotic & should not top anybody’s cut list.

  • Sean

    Mark if you had fully read the post you would have noticed it said “only Eichten got a candidate to answer the question: If you had to, what of your campaign’s agenda would you give up?”

    I’m pretty sure that doesn’t imply it was his question. It says he got a candidate to answer it. He did need to redirect Franken to get him to actually answer the question.

    I have a question for you. If you dislike this blog, and MPR, why do you even bother reading?

  • Bob Collins

    //Bob, removing my answer was cheap in the extreme.

    I made it clear in the post that people should only comment if they had an answer to the question.

    //Why should Al Franken be forced to cut his agenda before he even takes office simply because Norman Coleman and Bush-Cheney couldn’t balance a budget?

    He doesn’t have to. He merely has to answer the question. So if his answer is “I don’t intend to give up anyting,” then that should’ve been his answer. But it wasn’t his answer.

    //And why should you praise Gary Eichten for planting his favorite question and pretending it was supposedly coming from an audience member?

    Because it’s a free country and if I think Gary did a great job, I have the freedom — still — to so indicate. That doesn’t mean you have to agree. And if you go back and look at the original post, you’ll see the error of your assertion.

    //As for cutting agendas, I think the federal and state governments should delete ALL spending on so-called public radio and TV, especially those outfits that are not, in fact, owned by the public (like MPR).

    I think that’s up to you. It’ll be good news for the folks who’d rather watch Knight Rider on the Sunday night before the election.

  • Mark Gisleson

    I’m not sure how defunding MPR or TPT would result in more Knight Rider . . . more Knight Ridder maybe.

    For years I’ve listened to Gary Eichten ask that exact same question and he never seems to get a clue from the fact that politicians won’t answer questions that are premised with the assertion, “you’re too greedy, you’re asking for too much, there’s not enought money, so which of YOUR programs would you cut?”

    It is NOT an honest question. It ignores standard economic theory that says governments have to run deficit spending to get out of recessions.

    What would I cut? Nothing that I’ve advocated, just like most of the people who’ve bothered to answer. This question gets responses that typically sacrifice something the answerer didn’t want in the first place. Franken screwed up by “trying” to honestly answer the question, and he’s been skewered for it by people who disagree with his answer.

    A better question would be, “would you please shoot yourself in the foot now?”

    Bob, I don’t pick fights with you just for the sake of picking fights. I read EVERY post you write and you generally do a good job of what you do. But once in a while you seem to have a serious perception problem and you buy into one of the many false memes that the Right constantly seeks to plant in our discourse.

    There is no reason why, after eight years of massive Republican deficits, that Democratic programs should be sacrificed so that lower income Americans can pay off the debt created by Wall Street. American workers did not create this debt, American financial “experts” did. I would suggest that if MPR insists on making this “the” MPR question, that you also include another question for purposes of balance. Something along the lines of, “Since President Bush has all but destroyed our economy, which of his economic advisors would you fire first?”

    Sorry, but I’ll keep coming back here if for no other reason than to see if you’ll ever point out that the Clean Water/Arts amendment is entirely funded through a sales tax, i.e., on the backs of the Minnesota poor who can’t afford to go north on weekends and who don’t take in the arts.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Bob? Thank you for putting my first two comments back up.

  • Bob Collins

    Mark, I think sometimes you see peole who might be to the “right” of you as being “on the right” of the political spectrum. I don’t think they’re the same thing.

    It’s this same point that is also why the DFL has been so poor at working the suburbs on behalf of legislative candidates. The party is run by city DFLers who just can’t seem to understand that not everybody is as far to one side as they are.

    Maybe tomorrow Obama will win, and the House and SEnate in both Washington and St. Paul will be veto-proof. Then, without any more excuses, we’ll see what the Democrats can do.

    But as I said in the live blog last night, the one thing they haven’t been held accountable for in the last two years, is their steadfast refusal to put up much of a fight against George Bush, whom they know blame for everything that is wrong. And now we’re told by candidates that “they’ll fight.”

    Fortunately for them, their opponents were in no position to point out this flaw in their performance since 2006.

    As for the arts/outdoors amendment, since the amendment asks about an increase in the sales tax, I wasn’t aware it needed to be pointed out. I’ve pointed many, many times what I think about using the constitution as a budget document.

    But, for the record, some of those poor folks are beneficiaries of programs sponsored by the arts groups receiving funding.