Boston College Republicans and Democrats found little common ground last night in a debate sponsored by the BC chapter of No Labels, a national non-partisan organization dedicated to creating change in American government.
Cole Rabinowitz, A&S ’14, moderated the debate. E.J. Risley, A&S ’14; Myles Casey, A&S ’17; and Wesley Mather, A&S ’14, debated for the Republican perspective. Evan Goldstein, A&S ’15; Therese Murphy, A&S ’14; and Madeline Walsh, A&S ’14 debated for the Democrats.
Rabinowitz began the debate with a question about the economy. He said that the 85 wealthiest individuals in America are worth more financially than the entire bottom half of all Americans.
Mather responded by arguing that trickle-down economic policies allow for greater growth than government intervention.
“A rising tide lifts all ships,” he said. “Equality and fairness are not the same thing. We don’t have to be equal to be fair.”
Mather related this trickle-down approach to debt and unemployment before stating that America’s biggest resource is to tap into its wealthiest individuals. He then critiqued the minimum wage increase widely proposed by Democrats across the nation.
“It’s not a feasible idea to keep raising the minimum wage,” he said. “It’s not fair to say, ‘You’ve done so well. Why don’t you help out the guy next to you?'”
Goldstein, of the College Democrats, shifted the discussion from wealth disparity to a way to ameliorate it by reporting that recent research suggests that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would bring 5 million people out of poverty.
The moderator’s next question was about college costs. Murphy responded to the question by suggesting that the government should expand Pell Grants, make the FAFSA easier, and give more aid to community colleges.
Mather rebutted Murphy’s position by arguing that not everyone should go to a four year liberal arts college and that the government should not be encouraging students to take out large loans to pay for college.
Murphy responded that everyone has a right to a college education emphasizing that the path to opportunity in America is college.
The moderator’s third question regarded global warming. Casey responded by stating that the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change exaggerates scientific data about the severity of climate change.
“We’re not denying that global warming is a thing, [but] the left has blown up the impacts of global warming to astronomical levels,” he said.
Murphy said that Casey’s view of global warming is not the one held by the Republican Party at large.
“It’s very hard to debate this issue when Republicans won’t even admit that climate change is occurring,” Murphy said. “It’s been very difficult for Democrats to make any progress on environmental legislation because of Republican opposition.”
The fourth question the moderator asked was about U.S. foreign policy, particularly in Syria and Afghanistan. Murphy emphasized that the chemical weapons deal in Syria was a triumph of diplomacy, while Casey criticized it as a passive strategy that relied too much on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The debaters found more common ground on immigration-all panelists supported comprehensive immigration reform.
The Affordable Health Care Act was a more contentious topic. Mather sharply criticized the bill, but acknowledged it is here to stay.
“So far, this bill has been a gigantic flop,” he said. “How are students really going to address this bill? They aren’t signing up in huge droves. I’m planning to stay on my parents’ plan until I’m 26.”
Walsh offered a defense of the bill. “Without Obamacare, there are so many provisions that people in this room wouldn’t have the benefit of enjoying,” she said. “We’re talking about the lives of everyone in this room, and not just policy and rhetoric.”