There seems to be widespread sentiment, both here at Momocrats and generally in the political blogosphere, that last night's Democratic Presidential Primary Debate on ABC (transcript here) was pretty much the most pointless, most poorly moderated debate so far this primary season.
Featuring 45 straight minutes of questions entirely focused on campaign trail gaffes and splashy media controversies that have already been addressed repeatedly by both candidates, in my opinion, the most impressive aspect of this debate was how artfully ABC's normally seemingly fairly intelligent moderators, George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson, managed to avoid any serious, cogent discussion of actual issues that affect voters' daily lives.
We here at Momocrats are pretty frustrated by the lack of serious discussion of serious issues in this debate. And so, we've decided to come up with our own list of questions we wish the ABC moderators had posed, and, over the next few days, some of us will be researching to uncover what information we can about where the candidates stand on these important issues, so we can report back to you.
The Questions We Wished ABC Had Asked:
On Poverty and Rural Development
John Edwards spoke repeatedly about alleviating suffering and poverty for the poorest among us. With 46M people living in poverty and tens of thousands of homeless people in most major cities in our nation, what will be your response in addressing the lack of affordable housing in our nation?
Specifically for Senator Obama: please discuss the outcome of your "Rural Poverty Summit" held last summer and how you plan to enact policy changes in accordance with the results of the summit. If you have sponsored or know of existing pieces of legislation on these issues, please detail the progress of these bills through Congress.
Specifically for Senator Clinton: in your "HRC: Vision for Rural America," you state that you have fought for "proposals to recruit, retain, and educate more nurses and health professionals in rural areas." Please elaborate on how you'd do this. Also, please say more about your "Farm-to-Fork" programs and the initiatives you would put in place to encourage women and minority-owned small farms. Are these based on existing pieces of legislation? If so, please give details on the progress of these through Congress.
On the Economy
Many in the U.S. are deeply in debt, struggling to pay off credit cards with high interest rates. The mortgage crisis is pushing many working families even closer to the edge. Meanwhile, it is becoming harder for individuals with good credit scores to secure credit at a fair rate. And foreign investors are becoming nervous about whether U.S. consumers (and corporations) will be able pay back their debts, given the struggling U.S. economy. What do you plan to do to address the growing credit crisis?
On the Environment, Food Safety, and Food Security
Food prices in the U.S. rose 4% in 2007, the fastest rise in 17 years. Worldwide, rampant food inflation has been an even greater concern in the past year, sparking riots in India, Senegal, Yemen and Haiti. What do you plan to do to address the rising cost of food, here in the United States and worldwide?
In March (of this year), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
made its national ambient air
quality standards (NAAQS) more rigorous for ground-level ozone, the
primary component of smog. Although these are the most
stringent standards to date, and air quality is better than it was 40
years ago, air in many cities is still too dirty, causing health
problems. Also, the act provides as much as 20 years to come into
Clearly, the current incentives and fines in place to force areas and companies to comply with EPA regulations are not effective. Further, the new standards are 75 parts per million when solid scientific studies prove that 60-70 parts per million is the highest it ought to be in order to not put people with respiratory problems, children, the elderly, and so forth at risk.
If elected President, what would you do to protect the citizens from pollution and pollution sickness, and how would you ensure compliance with regulations?
Also, would you work to ensure that health care provided care for people with pollution induced sickness?
to a March 31, 2008 report in the International Herald Tribune, "the
number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28
million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program
began in the 1960s."
"The 'standard deduction' for living costs, which is subtracted from family income to determine eligibility and benefit levels," hasn't been revised since 1996. Legislation to index the "standard deduction" to the cost of living has currently passed both houses of Congress to amend this. Yet the current Bush administration has refused to pass these bills which are wrapped inside larger agricultural bills.
At the same time, schoolchildren were recently potentially exposed to tainted meat from "downer cows" produced in violation of USDA regulations at a Chino, CA meat packing plant that supplied beef to public schools nationwide.
How would your overall farm policy differ from that of the current administration, and what else would you do to ensure that vulnerable people--whether school kids dependent on USDA-supplied public school lunches, or people reliant on food stamps--get the safe, nutritious food they need? Furthermore, how would you expand funding for the Farmer's Market Nutrition Program (WIC food stamps redeemed at farmer's markets) so that all 50 states participate, instead of the 37 continental states plus DC and our "protectorates" (Guam, Puerto Rico, etc.)?
now, pollution from coal-powered China blows around the planet and
hovers over Los Angeles, my hometown. We don’t need any more air so
thick with exhaust you can swim in it--we have plenty of our own. So
I’d like to know how you plan to partner with the world’s most populous
and fast-industrializing nation to do the following:
1) Incorporate Chinese markets into your green economy/green collar jobs strategy for the benefit of American workers and companies
2) Work with China and other up-and-coming developing nations to meet clean fuel emissions and other green manufacturing standards through technology exchange
3) Finally, will you formally get on board the global commitment to reduce our part in climate change by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed (symbolically) by the Clinton administration in 1998? And in doing so, will you commit to moving China forward on this as well? If not, please state your alternate plan of action on this.
On Torture and the Constitution
Recently, President Bush revealed to ABC news that he was aware of the fact that some of his top administration officials had discussed and approved specific details of the CIA's use of torture, and that he himself approved of the use of waterboarding. Do you plan to publicly demand that the CIA change its policies to prohibit torture? How do you plan to reassure the international community that the United States intends to reaffirm its commitment both to the Geneva Conventions, and our own Bill of Rights?
On the Iraq War
A few months ago, President Bush agreed to a "declaration of principles" with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, indicating the US will maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. The agreement, which, incidentally, technically violates the Constitution by bypassing approval from Congress, implies that the U.S. will retain about 50,000 troops in Iraq indefinitely. Do you plan to honor this as a viable agreement? If not, how will you address renegotiating the terms with the Iraqi government?
And finally, here are some questions for the candidates submitted to us previously by MOMocrats readers:
I would ask (Obama or Clinton) what he planned to do about our increasing indebtedness and subsequent weakness as regards the People's Republic of China... and whether he would continue to militarily back the independence of Taiwan. I would also ask him what proactive measures he would take to end the genocide in Darfur.
From John J. (to Obama):
He has already talked a lot about his policies: economic, Iraq, etc. My question is more relevant to the immediate needs of the party - How do you intend to counteract the vitriol and divisiveness growing between your supporters and Sen. Clinton's?
I would like to know more about (their) plans for education in this country. NCLB is killing my district and especially our elementary school. Gifted funding has been cut dramatically and the principal has admitted they spend more time and money getting kids up to a passing level while ignoring the high achieving kids. The disparity is incredibly discouraging for parents and kids alike. These gifted and high-achieving kids are the future leaders of the world, whether it's politics, business or technology, and sadly *those* are the kids being left behind by NCLB.
Will you stop the United States from torturing people and holding them without charge or trial?
My biggest question is what can be done to help dual income families, with specific regards to paid maternity leave (which he has addressed briefly, but I would love some more detail on) and access to quality affordable childcare. The fact that some child care waitlists are longer than the human gestation period is a huge problem. The fact that child care is one of the largest expenses for some families is a problem as well. I know that my husband and I will barely be making ends meet once our kid starts daycare. I can't afford to quit my job and stay home with him (which I would do in an ideal world) but we can barely afford for me to keep working, once we factor in childcare costs. And we are what most would consider middle class. I don't know how single parents, or those making less household income than we do can afford it. To me this is a HUGE problem, and one that shows that as much as we (as a society) like to *talk* about being pro family and taking care of working americans, when it comes to actually *doing* something about it, we can't (or won't) put our money where our mouth is. And it's another factor that further increases the socioeconomic divide in this country. The rich can afford with out trouble while the poor either go into debt or barely make it work, and can't save and advance the way the need to to get ahead in life. Not that these issues will solve all of society's issues, but the directly impact so many of them, that addressing these needs and issues could have tremendous impact on other social issues as well.
What will (Obama and Clinton) do about the rising cost of gas? I know that we need to invest in R&D for alternative energy sources, but that's down the line. I want to know what is the plan for right now, at the gas pump, for the truck drivers, for working folks, for mommy chauffeurs, and for my 16 year old kid who can only drive if she pays for her own gas with money from her three shift a week restaurant hosting job?
Seriously, we're deep in a crisis. Our entire infrastructure is teetering on the edge because of fuel prices. The impact on the trucking industry alone will affect all aspects of American life.
What do (Obama and Clinton) plan to do about the horrifically family unfriendly policies of corporate America? How can we better support working moms and working families with paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, etc. Does s/he see these issues as a priority for his/her administration?
Education. Specifically, funding for education, including special education. Adjustments in NCLB can shift money to classrooms instead of paperwork while still maintaining accountability. (How do they) plan to handle education funding?
What do you wish ABC had asked?
Jaelithe also scolds the mainstream media at The State of Discontent.
Edited to add: This post will be updated over the next couple of days as more Momocrats submit their questions.