The McGregor Memorial Conference Center was the site for political talking points Oct. 9 as the Wayne State Alumni Association was host to a discussion entitled, “Hot-Button Issues Affecting the 2012 Elections.”
As part of the Arthur L. Johnson Urban Perspective Lecture Series, the discussion featured Detroit Free Press columnist, television and radio personality Rochelle Riley and Detroit News Pulitzer Prize-nominated political cartoonist and writer Henry Payne.
Moderated by WDET-FM’s Craig Fahle, the discussion focused on the key “hot-button issues” between President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
The discussion began with Fahle asking both guest speakers where they think each of the presidential candidates has good ideas on the economy, but Fahle said he was going to put them on the defensive because he wanted each of them to talk about the candidate they’re likely not supporting in this election.
Payne said he likes Obama’s charter because his party is a traditional union party. He said that Democrats are the party of unions and Republicans are the party of business. He said that with the strength of teachers’ unions in the Democratic Party, charter schools have never been popular and he thinks Obama is trying to break that teacher stranglehold on the party and encourage charters.
“It sets course huge here in Detroit where more students deserve more education choice options just as parents of greater means have choice options in the suburbs,” Payne said.
Economically, Payne said that the initial response of the Obama Administration in 2009 was okay, but the problem is the policies that Obama has put in place since then. He said that those policies have really been a drag to job creation.
Riley began by saying that Mitt Romney really believes that he can reduce the deficit and when he says out loud that “we don’t want to leave this for our children and grandchildren,” that is absolutely right.
“So, I can get behind any leader or any president who really has a plan to do that,” Riley said.
Riley said that unfortunately, she hasn’t heard any of the two candidates speak of an adequate plan to reduce the deficit. She said there is an issue with both candidates proposing plans to reduce the deficit right away.
“I would rather see a plan that would reduce the deficit — or get rid of the deficit — over eight years than someone to tell me on day one, I’m going to do these ten things,” Riley said.
Payne said that America’s deficit is an example of what happens when long-term liabilities such as entitlement spending are not addressed. He said that the only reason there are deficits in America is because of the entitlement programs Medicare and Medicaid.
“Until you get budgets on Medicare and Medicaid, you’re going to have long-term fiscal problems in this country,” Payne said.
Payne also said that Obamacare brings the Medicare and Medicaid entitlement into the middle-class, an increase entitlement that Payne said is so huge and so crippling that it will be on the way to European debt levels very soon.
Riley then asked to discuss the entitlements that aren’t being talked about. She then referred to the people who don’t have to work for a living but don’t pay taxes on their money because of our tax loopholes that keep us from gaining that income.
“It’s not an entitlement to be able to get health insurance or to be able to stay alive if you’re a senior,” Riley said. “It’s not an entitlement to make sure that children eat — those are rights in this country because we’re America.”
She said that she’d like to look into some of the entitlements that people don’t call entitlements because they really need to be looked at if people are talking about making drastic change.
Fahle then asked the speakers to talk about Medicare.
Payne, who referred to Mitt Romney as a clone of Gov. Rick Snyder, gave an example of the job that Snyder has done in Michigan. He said that one of the enormous things that Snyder has done in Michigan in the last few years is put in basics, like two-year budgeting and putting a fence around the state’s long-term fiscal liabilities.
Riley said that Romney and Snyder are nothing alike and that Snyder had a plan and dashboards to show you his plan at all times. She said she would simply like to see a plan from the presidential candidates.
“You can say that yes we need to cut Medicare; it’s an entitlement that we have to change,” Riley said, “but I want to know who’s looking for the impact of that.”
Fahle then proceeded to ask the speakers about Romney’s proposal for a 20 percent tax cut for all income levels, as well as both candidates’ stances on jobs, immigration and the political controversy of the “war on women.”
Payne said that vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Or., have put together a fiscally sound plan for Medicare. He said that this plan of simplification will grow the American economy by closing loopholes, lowering rates and making business investments more predictable.
Riley said that she thinks it’s a “very dangerous slope” to put the future of America in the hands of businessmen.
“To put all the eggs in one basket and hand it to businessmen and say ‘now you need to be willing to do something,’” Riley said. “I think people want a greater guarantee than that.”
“Businessmen create jobs, Rochelle,” Payne said.
In response to the question of job creation, Riley said that America is experiencing a “real recovery” but it’s slower than what people would like. Payne suggested that Obama would be winning this election “hands down” if he had left the economy alone.
“This is the worst economic recovery since World War II,” Payne said.
Riley said that it’s “unfair to history” to compare World War II’s recovery to a recovery that has dealt with two wars, a huge deficit and some of the myriad problems plaguing the current administration.
“These are not the same circumstances,” Riley said.
On immigration, Riley said that Obama’s Dream Act is quite clear and goes farther than what we’ve had before.
Payne said that Obama is on the right track but has not been aggressive, while the Republican Party is totally wrong on their anti-immigration policy.
“Women vote with their pocketbooks,” Riley said in response to the political controversy surrounding the war on women.
Riley said that women run households and raise families. She said that Barack Obama has “carried women heavily” and that when it comes to telling women what to do with their body, they may not support the stances of the Republican platform.
Payne, who identified himself as pro-choice, said that Mitt Romney is not as far-right as his party is on the issue of abortion. He said that if you look at the polls, the issue of abortion is not a “slam dunk” issue for the Democratic Party.
“I think there are larger issues at play,” Payne said.
He said that there is a cultural phenomenon in this country and that there are more single parent households that may tend to vote Democratic while more married women tend to vote Republican, but not by a large margin.