GOP debate — business as usual

Tom Chamberlain-2015By Tom Chamberlain, Oregon AFL-CIO president

If you’ve got a political sweet tooth, the past several weeks have been a sugar overload.

The Republican presidential debate was entertaining, but lacked specifics other than punches thrown by Donald Trump to all comers — including moderator Megyn Kelly.  The debate fell flat on matters of substance like global warming, wage inequality, and education, instead focusing on repealing Obamacare and restructuring Social Security to reduce benefits for working Americans.

Presidential hopeful Rand Paul captured the theme of the night best by stating that income inequality comes from “some people working harder than others.” Such a cavalier attitude can only come from a life of privilege.

On Aug. 9, more than 27,000 people crowded inside (and outside) the Moda Center in Portland, stomping and cheering as Senator Bernie Sanders addressed what ails America. Bernie takes a path that most politicians fear to tread: calling out corporations and billionaires for buying influence through political contributions, and the failure of our government to listen to the needs of working people. Senator Sanders truly believes that America is “moving toward an oligarchic form of society, where billionaires will control the economy and the political life of this country.” His message is filled with courage and activism that Americans thirst for: We have the power to take on corporations and the wealthy elite to create an America that works for all of us, and we have the right to share in America’s wealth.

Topping off the week, Politico ran a story about the so-called “New Democrat Coalition,” a group of 50 moderate pro-business Democrats in Congress instrumental in passing Fast Track Authority for free trade agreements. No trade agreement with Fast Track Authority has ever failed to pass. This coalition goes beyond supporting corporate-driven trade acts; they are also fiscal conservatives who support cutting Social Security and Medicare just to reduce government spending. 

According to Politico, the “New Democrats” believe the White House and party leaders focus too much on economic issues like minimum wage and pay equity, and they support the economic policies usually dominated by Republicans. That includes reevaluating how Congress spends money on infrastructure and education, alongside challenging legislation such as the Dodd-Frank Act, which provides greater Wall Street oversight and increased financial consumer protections. Thankfully, Oregon only has one member of the New Democrat Coalition: Congressman Kurt Schrader.

The Republican presidential debate was business as usual: perpetuating an economy that provides greater opportunities for the wealthiest.  The debate was a classic example of the merger of conservative Christian beliefs and politics: God was mentioned 19 times while the economy was mentioned 10 times, vying for the title as the anti-choice candidate and speaking to a view of the world that is only white, male, and powerful. 

Even though the New Democrat Coalition doesn’t talk about limiting LBGQ rights or debate about when life begins, they’re pushing a pro-corporate agenda. Their point of view on economics does not significantly differ from Republican presidential candidates, and would result in higher inequality and damaging the American safety net by reducing benefits. These “New Democrats” are moving away from investment in our infrastructure and education system, two areas that require greater investment for America to remain competitive.

While the New Democrat Coalition is trying to push the Democratic Party to the right, Bernie Sanders is pulling Democrats to the left.  Sanders is climbing in the polls and gaining the attention of working people, students, and small business owners across the country. 

Keep pulling, Bernie. Who knows? You just might be the first to cross the finish line.

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