Cain–Gingrich Debate–November 5, 2011

Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich met for a special debate on November 5.  It was held in Texas and televised on C-SPAN.  Billed as a Lincoln-Douglas style debate, it lasted about an hour and a half and concentrated on entitlement reform.  An relatively small in-house audience of two or three hundred (my estimate) was present.

Supposedly, there would be no moderator, only a timekeeper.  Actually, there was a moderator plus another questioner, but they only asked questions.  The debate met the objectives of allowing the candidates to speak at length to answer a question thoroughly.  Cain and Gingrich were very friendly and uncritical toward each other, with no “gotcha” style remarks.  Both men came across as very likeable.  However, last night there wasn’t a debate in the true sense – there was no argument back and forth – no criticism of the other’s position.  The two men just took turns giving their perspectives on a question.

Herman Cain surprised me with the depth of his knowledge and his ability to relate entitlement reform to his business experience.  I no longer consider him a flyweight as a potential president.  He tends to favor most features of the Paul Ryan reforms to Social Security and Medicare.  He also mentions the reforms made in Chile, and I had thought he was talking about health care reform there, and had been a bit critical of that.  Last night, he mentioned Chile in relation to Social Security reform, citing the fact that people have personal retirement accounts in Chile as part of the government plan.  

Newt Gingrich probably impressed viewers as having considerably greater knowledge and understanding of issues.  He favors allowing people to choose from options rather than outright mandate from government.  I had heard him say he isn’t in favor of advancing the retirement age, and doesn’t advocate means testing for Social Security and Medicare, and I had wondered why.  It turns out that he doesn’t want to limit choice.  He’s in favor of premium-defined plans  with flexibility rather than one-price government-defined benefit packages, and wants them structured so that wealthier people will choose to self-insure.   He emphasized the use of computer systems to greatly reduce fraud in the entitlements, would form a consortium of IBM and the credit card companies to administer the entitlements with an emphasis of catching crooks trying to defraud the system.  

Both men favor block granting Medicaid to the states, while giving them fewer federal guidelines to follow.  I had thought this was a cop-out from a very difficult problem, but it does make sense.  The risk I see is that some states may be less competent than others in delivering health care.

I would like this format used between two men who disagree with each other, and don’t like each other so much.  Gingrich–Obama or Cain–Obama debates in this style would produce some real fireworks, in my opinion.

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