CNBC is unquestionably the premier business and investing television network, so it would make sense that CNBC would host a debate between Republicans vying for their party’s nomination.
It also would make sense if that debate was focused on business and the economy and aimed at addressing the concerns of individual investors. But how much did investors learn about how each Republican would approach the titanic tasks of spurring economic growth, creating jobs and bringing stability back into the financial markets?
We learned a lot about the candidates’ big-picture approach, but little about how each candidate would actually attempt to solve these problems.
Now in fairness, the debate format isn’t conducive to a detailed policy analysis, so we shouldn’t have expected a lot on that front. Still, what we, as investors, wanted to hear was some specifics on how each candidate would address the major economic concerns of the day.
Here are some of the comments that stuck out in my mind as being representative of the evening’s repartee:
What Say You?
The leadoff question by moderator Maria Bartiromo, which was directed toward businessman Herman Cain, was nearly word for word the question I wrote for my Traders Reserve colleague John Hutchinson, who was right there among the phalanx of journalists asking tough questions of the candidates in the pre-debate press sessions. Bartiromo asked, “Once again, we were all impacted by the news that the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 400 points today. The reason: Italy is on the brink of financial disaster. It is the world’s seventh largest economy. As president, what will you do to make sure that their problems do not take down the U.S. financial system?”
Cain responded with what became the overriding themes of the night for nearly all of the candidates, and that was by saying that the keys to nearly all of our economic ills was to grow the U.S. economy and to reform our monetary policy. Cain said that we aren’t going to grow the economy until we “put some fuel in the engine that drives economic growth, which is the business sector.” He then said that we “must assure that our currency is sound. Just like a dollar must be a dollar when we wake up in the morning, just like 60 minutes is in an hour, a dollar must be a dollar.” Cain added that if we shore up our own fiscal house, we will be in much better position to survive the economic downpour caused by Europe’s woes.
The follow-up question from CNBC firebrand Jim Cramer focused on Italy’s status as too big to fail, and he wanted to know if the candidates were prepared to put the global banking system at risk by essentially staying out of any European bailout. Not surprisingly, the most philosophically consistent candidate on the stage, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, said he favored the liquidation of European debt and a laissez-faire approach that would stop the bailout-to-bubble economic cycles perpetuated by governmental meddling in the economy and markets.
That theme was picked up by Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who said, “My view is no, no, no. We do not need to step in to bail out banks either in Europe or banks here in the U.S. that may have Italian debt.” The anti-bailout theme continued to ring out from the rest of the candidates throughout the night. Even the most populist candidate, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, came in against the bailouts, saying. “So long as we have banks too big to fail, we are setting ourselves up for long-term disaster and failure.”