There was a huge economic issue—or, rather, set of issues—that went totally missing from last night’s vice presidential debate: Any acknowledgment that a world exists outside the borders of the United States of America. The same thing happened at the first presidential debate, but I thought that might have been a consequence of the outdated artificial separation of domestic and foreign issues. But the veepfest mixed the two together and still missed the entire international economic scene, with the dialogue stuck in a dynamic where the only question to ask about a foreigner is whether or not to drop a bomb on his house.
Topics like immigration, the ongoing economic meltown of America’s key partners in the eurozone, trade with China, global public health, global pollution issues, and all the rest went entirely missing.
As economic questions, these play second fiddle to things congress spends more time fussing over like tax rates. But they also have large and important strategic implications. Will the U.S. population stay relatively young and fast-growing as Chinese demographics take a shift in the Japanese direction? Is there anything constructive we can do to keep our strategic allies in Europe in a unified political framework? Can we play a helpful role in ensuring that Indian democracy delivers the goods to its population in terms of rising living standards rather than letting PRC-style authoritarianism look like the winning strategy for the developing world?
I know it doesn’t get politicians’ juices flowing quite like tough talk on Iran, but I really hope the next two presidential debates give us at least a hint of awareness of international economic issues.