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Should the U.S. have a referendum?

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2011

Should the U.S. have a referendum?

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: That confidence vote in Italy is very much like the one that took place in Greece after the Greek prime minister last week had originally hailed — and then scrapped — plans for a public vote on that country’s big budget cuts.

Well, the U.S. is racked with a lot of debt. Could a national referendum on cuts happen here at home? Fortune magazine’s Allan Sloan is with us now to talk about it. Good morning Allan.

Allan Sloan: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: So all right, we saw the Greeks have scrapped the plan to call for a referendum on those big government cuts. What about here at home? I mean, should we just skip all the super committee stuff that’s going on in Congress and put the deficit question straight to the people here?

Sloan: Well there are only two minor problems with this, Steve.

Chiotakis: OK, give them to me.

Sloan: The first one is: What question exactly would you ask them to vote yes or no on? Which, you know, is not clear. And the second thing is: How would you conduct a referendum — since we’ve never had one in the United States — how would you do it?

Chiotakis: A national referendum — everybody across the country.

Sloan: Sure, OK well as soon as you’ve set up all the voting systems, let me know. At least Greece, there’s at least some understanding of what it is the government is proposing to do, and you can vote — and forgive my Greek pronunciations — ne or okhi.

Chiotakis: Oh very well, that’s good.

Sloan: All I need is 10,000 more words and I can become Greek.

Chiotakis: By the way, he said ‘yes or no.’

Sloan: It’s so hard here because there are so many different opinions. And if I asked you to say in 20 words or less what is it you’re asking people in the United States to say yes or no on, I couldn’t do it. I don’t think you could do it.

Chiotakis: What does this say to you, Allan — the fact that we’re having so much trouble just articulating this — what does this say to you about our political situation today?

Sloan: Well it says our political situation is a mess. Of course, it’s always a mess. But now, it’s messier than ever because everything here is now so divisive and so bizarre. You know, they’re speaking different languages — we might have to have three or four different language versions of our question, if we could ever figure out what it was.

Chiotakis: Fortune Magazine’s Allan Sloan in New York. Allan, thanks.

Sloan: You’re welcome, Steve.

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