Obama vs Romney Debate: The Proper Role for the Federal Government in Election 2012

Tonight at 9 p.m. EST, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will face off on national television to address matters of domestic policy, including jobs and the high rate of unemployment in America, the national debt, taxes, defense spending, and health care. The economy looms large as the topic of the evening, and in the election as a whole. According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 87% of registered voters say that the economy will be very important in making their choice in November.

In addition to the economy, a host of other domestic issues have been raised by both campaigns in the past few months. But the discussion underlying both Obama and Romney’s political rhetoric focuses on one very important question: what is government for?

This question echoes in many of the campaigns’ disputes over the proper solutions to a host of contemporary social and economic problems. Currently, as in the 2008 election, more voters favor a smaller government with fewer services. Another recent poll conducted by CNN/ORC International further found that while six in 1o voters say that “the government is doing too much that should be left to individuals  and businesses.” These changes in the attitudes of the American public present problems and opportunites for both parties – and for both candidates.

For example, Mitt Romney’s campaign website calls for “smaller, simpler smaller government.”

“The mission to restore America to health begins with reducing the size of federal government and getting our fiscal house in order. President Obama has put our nation on an unsustainable course … As president, Mitt Romney will cut federal spending and regulation, and bring much-needed reforms to Medicare and Social Security. Mitt will work toward balancing the budget, reducing the size and reach of the federal government, and returning power to the states and the people.”

Romney’s approach to government appears to be the favorable political position, as many Americans believe that Mitt Romney wants a smaller role for the federal government just as they do.

But though “most voters want a smaller government, majorities also support government spending to create jobs (vs. tax cuts) and lament an economic system that favors the wealthy (vs. onerous government regulations), neither of which is a good playing field for Romney.”

Obama has played up these advantages, arguing that the federal government has the power and the responsibility to fix our ailing economy.

“Even my Republican friends who complain the most about government spending have supported federally financed roads and clean energy projects and federal offices for the folks back home. The point is, we should all want a smarter, more effective government.”

Weigh In:

What do you think? What should the role of the federal government be in promoting economic growth? What about in resolving social issues? What sorts of questions regarding domestic policy should Obama and Romney be addressing tonight, and how do these questions relate to the role of the federal government?