Illustration by Bloomberg View
Illustration by Bloomberg View

Tonight’s Bloomberg News-Washington Post Republican presidential debate at Dartmouth College will focus on the economy. Previous debates have provided insight into the candidates’ abilities to think on their feet, and have exposed fissures within the party, but tonight’s gathering provides the first real chance to quiz the candidates at length about their economic views.

Although editorials should aspire to answer questions, the Dartmouth debate gives us the happy opportunity to ask a few. Given the breadth and depth of the economic challenges in the U.S. and around the world, it’s not a moment too soon.

1. Many business owners say there is insufficient demand for their products or services. Does the economy suffer from a lack of demand? How would you address that?

2. We import about $25 billion a month of Chinese goods. China, in turn, owns more than $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities. Is that relationship sustainable, and what, if anything, would you do to change it?

3. Do you trust an independent Federal Reserve to control monetary policy? What should the Fed be doing, and why?

4. The sovereign-debt crisis in Europe continues to exert a drag on European growth, with uncertainty about the strength of Greece and other economies raising risks for banks and investors around the world, including those in the U.S. What should be done to contain, and ultimately resolve, the crisis in Europe?

5. The top 1 percent of U.S. households now possesses more than one-third of the nation’s private wealth, and that share has been steadily growing. Is inequality a problem?

6. Protesters on Wall Street and elsewhere are expressing frustration with joblessness, corporate bailouts, inequality and other concerns. Are these grievances legitimate, or are they merely crude expression of “class warfare,” as some of you have maintained?

7. Would you support a revenue-neutral tax reform that: makes the system more efficient by eliminating loopholes and deductions; lowers marginal rates; reduces taxes for most Americans while raising them on some high-income earners?

8. Economic growth in the U.K. has stalled since the government introduced austerity measures -- primarily spending cuts -- to reduce its budget deficit. Does the U.K. experience offer any lessons for U.S. policy making?

9. The biggest economic booms of recent decades, under Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were both preceded by tax increases. How does the current Republican orthodoxy -- that tax increases are always “job killers” -- account for that fact?

10. The International Monetary Fund estimates that, without tax increases, the U.S. would have to cut 17 percent of gross domestic product -- equal to two-thirds of the federal budget -- to reduce debt to a more sustainable level by 2030. Do you believe spending cuts alone can accomplish this? If so, which two-thirds of the budget would you eliminate?

11. Many economists believe that excessive mortgage debt is undermining economic recovery. Should Congress require Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and banks to reduce the principal that mortgage-holders owe and write down their loans? Or should mortgage borrowers continue to shoulder the consequences of their own behavior?

12. Is there any fiscal or monetary policy that you believe would help create jobs, or should the government simply stop trying?

We are as aware as anyone that we no longer live in a Lincoln-Douglas age. But we are also aware that these are perilous times, that the economy is the primary source of this peril and that the capacity to engage in a nuanced and complex discussion of economic issues is a requirement for the next president.

To contact the Bloomberg View editorial board: view@bloomberg.net.