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What tax questions do you want to ask Obama and Romney?

The first head-to-head debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is about two hours away.

Moderator Jim Lehrer will try to get the two men to discuss domestic policy. That covers the economy, health care, the role of government and governing. All of us tax and money geeks are hoping that fiscal policy and tax reform are part of the economic segment.

What exactly do you want Obama and Romney to address, explain and/or elaborate on?

The tax publisher Tax Analysts asked its experts for questions they would ask the candidates concerning tax policy:

  • Should eliminating what some refer to as tax loopholes be considered tax increases?
  • Why should we allow mortgage interest deductions on second homes?
  • Should the preferential tax treatment for capital gain income be eliminated and replaced with the Buffett Rule?
  • Are the 40-plus percent of U.S. citizens who do not pay federal income taxes or those who receive generous tax benefits such as tax-free health care freeloaders?
  • Would you consider a temporary extension beyond Jan. 1, 2013, of the existing tax cuts or other short-term solution to avoid the fiscal cliff?

The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan political advocacy group that focuses ending deficit spending and promoting a balanced budget, also has some tax questions it would like the candidates to answer:

  • What are your specific plans for handling expiring tax cuts and impending spending cut provisions?
  • Would you support eliminating many of the tax preferences that now favor specific taxpayers?
  • If so, what are some examples of tax preferences that you would eliminate?
  • Do you support the comprehensive approach that the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles) recommended and its $4 trillion deficit-reduction target?
  • If not, what would your target be and which areas of the budget, if any, would you exempt from deficit-reduction efforts?

Any other tax or fiscal policy questions you'd like to add to these lists? Leave them in the comments section.

Zinger or zero? Word is that Romney has been practicing some zingers, those snappy phrases or one-liners that will highlight an Obama weakness, that he hopes to work into tonight's debate.

Dolly Madison Zingers

Good luck. I'm not saying that the GOP candidate should keep his day job, but ...

It's hard to come up with a funny, pithy and relevant quip when you're under pressure. And a comment sounds rehearsed or forced can fall even flatter.

But I'm sure both Romney and Obama have some statements they'll try their best to get out to potential voters.

I suspect Romney will bring up the sluggish economy. Given how the campaign jumped on Vice President Joe Biden's recent remark about the "buried" middle class, Romney will likely frame a remark or two along the line that personal finances haven't done that well under Obama.

Such an attack is not new. "Are you better off now?" is a common question from presidential opponents.

It was asked by Walter Mondale in 1984 when he criticized Ronald Reagan's spending for creating a national debt of over $1 trillion:

"Isn't the real question is, will we be better off? Will our children be better off? Are we building the future that this nation needs?"

And in 1980, it was Reagan, seeking to unseat President Jimmy Carter, who pointed out rising unemployment:

"I think when you make that decision, it might be well if you would ask yourself, are you better off than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago?"

You can test your memory of past debate zingers, gaffes and points made in the Los Angeles Times quiz of famous political debate quotes.

And I'll see y'all here tomorrow to discuss what tax questions were asked and how well Obama and Romney answered them.

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