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Republicans Got Through an Entire Economy Debate Without Mentioning Tech Jobs

Climate change was stuffed at the end, and science was off the table.

Adrianne Jeffries

Adrianne Jeffries

Tuesday's debate between the top seven candidates in the Republican Party was supposed to be about the economy. Fox Business moderator Neil Cavuto called it "the elephant in the room," and kicked things off with a question about the fast food worker wage movement "Fight for $15."

On stage were developer Donald Trump, neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Senator Marco Rubio, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

The candidates covered immigration, jobs, taxes, interest rates, Obamacare, and Hillary Clinton. They also spent an extended period talking about homeland security, with several candidates agreeing that it's not possible to have a strong economy unless everyone feels safe.

That same argument could be made about climate change, however, which experts agree will cause economic damage worldwide and in the US due to drought, forest fires, extreme weather, and sinking Miami real estate. Climate change also results in food shortages and migration, which can lead to more economic instability.

The big question finally came at the end of the debate, when candidates were asked if they'd allow drilling and energy production to continue at home and what they would do about stopping climate change.

The US has the most anti-science Congress in recent history, largely because of GOP climate change denialists like Cruz.

The response from the Republicans on stage to the climate change question was tepid. "While I do think man may have a role in our climate, I think nature also has a role," Paul said. "We've had times when the temperature has been warmer, we've had times when the temperature has been colder." As a result, he would not shut down coal plants, he said, and he believes people should be allowed to "drill and explore."

The resistance to climate change is to be expected. There was zero discussion of science, which is also not terribly shocking.

However, the candidates also spent no time talking about technology, outside of Rubio's mention of Candy Crush and Fiorina touting "innovation and entrepreneurship" as the "secret sauce of America."

This seemed surprising for a debate about growing jobs. In fact, very few specific jobs were mentioned. There were the fast food workers, whose wages may in fact be "too high," according to Trump; there were the welders, who should outnumber the philosophers, according to Rubio; there were veterans, who should be paid more; and that was basically it.

Obviously it's impossible to cover every aspect of the economy in one debate. If you're selling a vision of the future, however, it seems almost incomplete without tech jobs. The candidates took questions from Facebook and moderators directed viewers to the #GOPdebate hashtag, but there was no talk of Silicon Valley's riches or its influence. That's perhaps understandable as well, given that the San Francisco Bay Area is a bastion of progressives and libertarians. However, technology is not only a fast-growing sector, with a projected growth of 22 percent "in all computer occupations" by 2020 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it's also one of the best-remunerated. But when the basic party line is to spit on STEM, perhaps it makes sense to leave that fact unacknowledged.