September 29, 2008

Professors Analyze Policy Before Presidential Debate

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The 2008 presidential campaign has been largely inattentive to the issues of health care, immigration and social security, according to a group of experts in those fields who gathered at Cornell for a policy debate on Friday before the first presidential debate.
The debate, sponsored by a host of campus organizations, including the Department of Policy Analysis and Management in the College of Human Ecology, was titled “McCain v. Obama in 3D: Data and Debate on Domestic Policy” and took place at Bailey Hall.
While organizers said that the free tickets to the event “sold out,” the 1,324-seating-capacity auditorium was about three-quarters full when the event began at 6:30 p.m.
Interim Provost David Harris moderated the discussion among five professors from a range of universities, which focused on three domestic policy issues: healthcare, immigration and social security.
On the issue of healthcare, the panelists criticized the plans of both Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Sen. John McCain (D-Ariz.).
“There would be no change in the number of people insured under the McCain plan,” said Kathy Swartz, a professor of Health Economics at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Mark Pauly, chairperson of the Health Care Systems Department at the Wharton School of Management, tended to disagree with the extent to which the government should be involved in both healthcare and the economy, arguing against Obama’s plan to require employers to provide healthcare to their employees.
However, he praised both the McCain and Obama plans for allowing people to have a choice in their healthcare, which is important since “some people trust government and some people never trust government.”
Discussion of the second issue, immigration, arose during the audience question and answer period.
In answering a question about the financial burden that undocumented workers place on hospitals, Alejandro Portes, chair of the Department of Sociology and director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton the financial recovery plan?”
DiGennaro was very impressed with McCain’s stance on fiscal responsibility, something he said was lacking under the current administration.
Rajsky was surprised with how much both candidates agreed. Obama tried to pin McCain with unwise tax policies that would cut $300 billion in taxes for some of the richest corporations and individuals in the country, and McCain tried to label Obama as contradictory by pledging to limit pork barrel spending even though he supported $932 million in earmarked, pork-barrel spending.
However, both candidates agreed that government spending and earmark reform was a main issue that needed to be resolved to combat the current crisis. Many felt that neither McCain nor Obama were too explicit in their convictions and intentions for the recovery plan. Rather, they stated generally what caused the crisis and explained their intentions to modify and fix those areas in their administration.
Despite constant prodding from the moderator, Rajsky found it interesting that Obama never said what he would cut in order to minimize spending. He highlighted different things that were crucial and vital to achieve for the country, and he mentioned that they were not going to be able to do everything, but he neglected to mention if he was president what he would forgo in order to minimize government spending.
Mensah believes that, as shown through the debate, McCain’s economic policies would work better than those professed by Obama.
While many of the College Republicans went into the debate McCain supporters, and walked out of Bailey Hall after the debate just as adamant in their support for the Arizona senator, they attempted to watch the debate objectively to get the best read on both candidates.
“As with anything else, I went into the first presidential debate with an open mind, trying not to let my own support for Senator McCain and Governor [Sarah] Palin affect how I viewed the performances of Senators McCain and Obama,” Mensah said.
Rajsky acknowledged how previous support for a candidate could easily impact how one viewed the debate.
“I think my convictions played a large part in how I viewed the debate. While I tried to remain objective, I couldn’t help but think that McCain performed much better than Obama, but I am sure that most Obama supporters would disagree with me on this point,” Rajsky said.
Their pledges of objectivity notwithstanding, many of the members of the College Republicans were motivated to show their support for their candidate during the debate, especially because of the support shown to Obama and the opposition shown to McCain from the majority of the audience.
In one instance, McCain referenced his support and fondness over picking Governor Palin, a fellow “maverick”, as his running mate. The audience reacted very negatively to this statement, provoking many College Republicans to applaud their support for Palin to combat the reactions from the rest of the audience.