Students hold public debate on presidency
Rachel Jacobs ’13 and Noah VanValkenburg ’13 of the Colby Republicans debated with Andy Estrada ’12 and Ben Wexler-Waite ’14 of the Colby Democrats on Thursday, April 19, in the Diamond Building.
Philip Hussey ’14 moderated the debate, asking questions on a variety of current political issues from economic policy to health care to foreign policy. Hussey began the debate with a question about the economic policies of Romney and Obama.
Romney proposes “policies that are virtually identical to those of the Bush Administration,” Wexler-Waite said. He added that Romney’s policies would lead to “drastic levels of inequality” and that “Obama has created more than 4.1 million new private sector jobs.”
In her rebuttal, Jacobs called Obama’s job plans “temporary short-term fixes.” She cited a statistic indicating that 47 percent of likely voters trust Romney as the best candidate to handle the economy, while only 41 percent trust Obama.
Hussey’s second question asked whether the U.S. government should implement the Buffett Rule, a plan to increase taxes on the richest Americans, or if it should lower taxes for the wealthy to help jump-start the American economy. Jacobs does not see validity in the Buffett Plan. “This is a political gimmick,” she said, which is designed to appeal to voters, rather than to make any substantial dent into the growing budget deficit and national debt.
The Democrats responded with the opposite sentiment, “What type of society do we want to live in?’ Wexler-Waite asked. He emphasized his belief that the Buffett Plan would prevent growing inequality in the American economy and help make the recovery of the middle-class much easier.
Later, Hussey asked what should be done to reform entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Republicans began the response. “We need to start privatizing it,” VanValkenburg said, in regards to Society Security. He added that the current system is deeply unfair and that privatizing it would encourage personal responsibility.
Estrada disagreed with VanValkenburg’s assessment, stating that a private account is “certainly not a safe place” for Social Security funds. He also advocated for Medicaid and Medicare expansion, a tactic strongly opposed by VanValkenburg, who suggested cutting those programs to save on funding.
The two sides continued the debate with health care reform and were sharply divided on the necessity and constitutionality of the plan. “I think that health is the foundation for a full and productive life,” Wexler-Waite said. VanValkenburg contended, “You cannot go out and force people to buy insurance.”
The subject of the Trayvon Martin case, which has dominated the news in recent weeks, led to a debate over gun control laws. “As far as gun control laws in general, I think we can say that they haven’t worked,” VanValkenberg said. Estrada and Wexler-Waite disagreed, saying that the government has a responsibility to ensure that guns are used responsibly.
Both sides also differed in their opinions of Obama’s policy toward Israel and Iran. VanValkenburg called the Obama Administration “incredibly unsupportive of Israel,” to which Wexler-Waite responded, “I don’t know if the greatest sanctions in history on Iran [are] a weak policy.”
The two sides’ differences on energy policies were not quite as distinct, with both sides open to new energy solutions. “We should actually not lower the gas tax,” Jacobs said, because it is likely that this could motivate investment in new sources of more environmentally-friendly energy. However, when VanValkenburg and Jacobs suggested that Obama should have approved the Keystone Pipeline, Estrada disagreed vehemently, insisting, “I’m going to cross [the Pipeline] off on my paper. No, that’s not in the future.” Instead, Estrada and Wexler-Waite suggested further investment in Obama’s clean energy plans now.
Overall, the Colby Republicans and Democrats showed “two different worldviews,” Wexler-Waite said. The Republicans closed with the sentiment that a vote for a Republican president in 2012 is a vote for a better America, while the Democrats argued that President Obama is the best candidate to fix inequality in the US.