Talk of taxes, war and healthcare reform filled the common room of Alice Cook House last night during a presidential forum organized by the Alice Cook House Election Committee. For nearly an hour and a half, three supporters of Barack Obama faced off against three supporters of John McCain in a heated debate moderated by Arjun Srivastava ’09.
The question that opened the debate, posed by an audience member, concerned how each of the candidates would adjust taxes to combat the current economic downturn. Each of the panel members was given two minutes to speak on their respective candidates’ relevant views. A two-minute rebuttal period followed the first round.
The McCain supporters discussed tax policies in terms of their effects on business profits, the job market and national industries’ competitiveness abroad.
Michael Magdovitz ’10 said, “I believe that with tax incentives we can increase profits and create jobs … we need to focus on keeping taxes constant, since they decrease foreign competitiveness.” He also noted that, historically, raising taxes has sometimes had a negative impact on the nation’s economy, such as during the Carter administration.
Similarly, Ray Mensah ’11, chairman of the Cornell College Republicans, added, “Under McCain’s plan … tax cuts would be offered to 100 percent of Americans,” and noted that Obama’s tax plan could have substantial negative effects on about 5 percent of small business owners.
The Obama supporters, on the other hand, considered taxation primarily in terms of its socioeconomic fairness. Summarizing Obama’s tax plan, which offers tax cuts to individuals with yearly incomes of less than $250,000, Eronmonsele Elens-Eigbokhan ’09 stated, “What we’re going to do is give tax cuts to working Americans … 95 percent of whom make less than the $250,000 per year. Those are the people who will increase their spending and stimulate the economy.”
The next topic of discussion was foreign policy, with both sides of the debate initially in agreement on the need to use military force responsibly as well as to stop the “hate rhetoric” employed by some American politicians when discussing other areas of the globe.
The debate became intense, however, when talk focused on the war in Iraq.
Magdovitz accused Obama of being “too quick to say pack up and leave Iraq,” and Mensah observed that the recently-implemented troop surge has reduced violence levels in parts of Iraq.
Elens-Eigbokhan countered the argument, asserting that “McCain got the most important foreign policy issue — the war in Iraq — wrong, while Obama stood up against the invasion of Iraq when it was unpopular to do so.”
The last major topic of debate was healthcare reform.
Joe Teirab ’09, executive director of the College Republicans, argued against a less capitalistic health care system.
“We do need to help out people who don’t have insurance and can’t pay for it,” he said, “but we need to make sure that our health care system allows the free market to operate and drive down prices.” He argued that the relatively high cost of health care in America has a serious negative impact on corporate profits, rendering some American industries, such as the automotive industry, less competitive abroad.
In response, Nathan Baker ’11 referenced other countries with more governmentally regulated health care systems, stating “sick people should be taken care of by the state.”
Gordon Briggs ’09, the third member of the Obama panel, stated that only $4 out of every 100 currently being spent on health care goes toward preventative initiatives, expressing a belief in the need for “nipping incipient serious health problems in the bud.”
The debate ended with closing statements by both sides, during which the popular Obama-change McCain-experience dichotomy came to the surface.
“We need someone who has been tested, who will put his country first and lead our country out of dark times,” Mensah said.
Elens-Eigbokhan concluded, stating, “Today we stand on a precipice … of bringing about change. We have a man named Barack Obama who’s ready to get it done.”