Oct 04, 2016 - 3:45pm

At VP Debate Kaine and Pence Can Fill in the Blanks on Growing the Economy


Senior Editor, Digital Content

In a few hours the vice presidential candidates, Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, will take the debate stage in Farmville, Va.

[Insert game jokes here.]

Prior to joining their respective party tickets, we know that Sen. Kaine and Gov. Pence both have decent track record on trade.

As was written in July, both appreciate “how important global markets are for creating opportunities for U.S. companies and workers. It’s a refreshing contrast to presidential candidates who are wrong on trade.”

Unfortunately they flipped their positions when they became running mates.

Now, part of the role of a VP candidate at a debate is to defend your running mate. Understandable. But let's hope they cover some issues that were missed at the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Every voter would welcome a focus on policies that can grow the economy faster and create more jobs. Here are four.

1. Immigration

We know immigrants help (not hurt) American workers and benefit our economy. And we know our immigration system needs to be fixed:

Immigrants come here looking for economic opportunity, freedom, and a better life for themselves and their families. They’ve crossed oceans to work, learn, and live. Our country has benefitted from this influx of cultures and ethnicities, and immigrant workers have made lasting contributions to our economy.

But our immigration system hasn’t kept up with the ever-changing world economy. Today, jobs go unfilled because companies can’t find the workers with the skills they need. Our outdated and ineffective system now welcomes some immigrants and blocks entry to others often with little consideration of what skills they bring and what roles they would fill in the economy.

At the same time millions of hardworking people are here without authorization living in the shadows. Many of them have been here for years living quiet, peaceful lives with their families.

It’s a system that’s in desperate need of repair.

2. Health Care

Former President Bill Clinton called Obamacare a “crazy system.” He's right. We know it’s not reducing health care costs and is pushing some employers to cut back on workers.


What would each presidential ticket do to actually fix our health care system to ensure sure all Americans have access to innovative, affordable health care?

3. Education

What will the presidential tickets do to shrink the skills gap and get workers the training they need to fill job openings?

Historically, there has been a disconnect between what students learn in classrooms and what employers are looking for in potential hires. In a rapidly changing economy, employers are working to better coordinate and collaborate with those postsecondary institutions that can meet their hiring needs. Nevertheless, Washington needs to lead in incentivizing solutions to make certain that students enter the workforce with the skills they need to compete for jobs in the high-skilled 21st century workforce.

4. Debt and Entitlement Reform

The most-overlooked issue in this presidential election is still not getting the attention it deserves. How do we reform our entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid--so they survive for future generations?

These programs are fundamental components of America’s social safety net, providing economic security to seniors, the poor, and others. However, they’re also the main drivers of our country’s swelling federal debt, and the programs themselves have become wholly unaffordable and unsustainable. In fact, on their current trajectory, entitlements and interest on the debt (which is largely driven by spending on those entitlement programs) will account for 96 percent of all federal revenue in 10 years, according to baseline projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

That leaves just four pennies of every dollar the federal government brings in to spend on discretionary programs, which includes everything from defense initiatives and federal research to education programs and highway repairs. That’s simply not feasible, and it means that all other spending – in areas like national security, education, and infrastructure – must be financed by issuing more debt.

Will the VP candidates talk about the issues? Voters can only hope.

About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean has written for various Chamber properties since 2012. In 1999, Sean launched a “weblog” and never looked back, becoming a self-proclaimed pioneer of the medium.