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Debates Should Highlight Both National Security and Economic Growth

Dec 14, 2015

Given the recent terrorist attacks, this week’s presidential debates in Las Vegas and Manchester, N.H., will undoubtedly focus on national security. That’s as it should be: Defense of the United States and its people is an explicit constitutional responsibility of the president, and America faces deadly danger from terrorism.

Yet at the same time, candidates should continue to lay out their plans for economic growth. National security and a strong economy key to afford it are intrinsically linked, and the U.S. economy has been lagging for far too long.

As I wrote in a recent FoxBusiness op-ed:

The U.S. economy has been underperforming since the end of the recession in 2007, making it slowest recovery since World War II; annual real GDP growth averaged only about 2.2 percent over that period. More recently, the Commerce Department estimated annualized GDP growth of just 1.5 percent for the third quarter of 2015.

The economy does continue to add jobs every month, and the unemployment rate fell to 5 percent in October. Yet the unemployment rate for young people ages 16-19 stood at 13.8 percent last month, nearly triple the national rate.  

Just as troublingthe labor participation rate was just 62.4 percent in October. That’s the lowest percentage of people in the workforce since 1977! Quite simply, too many people have given up looking for employment, or find themselves trapped in part-time jobs that make it difficult to pay the bills.

Business Roundtable has released a series of major policy proposals that business leaders believe would revitalize economic growth, Achieving America’s Full Potential: More Work, Greater Investment, Unlimited Opportunity. Its strategies include:

Tonight, as the Republicans debate, and Saturday, when the Democrats take the stage, the public will expect to hear about the candidates’ approach toward terrorism and national security.

But the debates should also be a platform for the presidential hopefuls to be asked about their plans for renewing the U.S. economy. Our national defense requires strength at home as well as abroad.