On Thursday evening, The Bully Pulpit Series hosted two Politico Caucus forums in Alumni Hall. Coproduced by the Departments of Communication and Political Science, the Series aims to generate political dialogue on campus and help students discover their political identity. Founded in Arlington, Va., Politico is a political journalism organization covering both breaking news and ongoing events. The magazine publishes articles daily online and bimonthly in print, shedding light on the people, ideas and institutions that have the biggest impact in Washington.
As Pres. Obama’s term comes to a close, most news and media organizations have directed their attention on the candidates contending for his position in the White House. With the November general election looming closer and closer, organizations such as Politico host meetings, conventions and rallies devoted to informing the general public about pertinent issues.
Politico hosted two forums on Thursday evening open to the entire campus—the first focused on energy issues and the second centered on the economic policies facing the next president. Both events were sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a self-proclaimed nonpartisan organization which increases awareness of the key fiscal challenges concerning America’s future and empowers future generations to take action.
Where do the candidates stand?
The first panel included James Pethokoukis, a columnist for the American Enterprise Institute; Gene Sperling, the outside advisor of Hillary Clinton; Stephen Moore, a Fox News contributor; and Robert Hockett, a professor of law at Cornell University.
The discussion began with the question “what is it about the economy right now that Sanders is so adept at seizing and what factors are driving that?” Hockett responded, “he’s plunging right to the core of a quite fundamental problem.” Hockett spoke of the downward pressure on American wages and salaries, resulting in enormous foreign exchange surpluses and an oversupply of capital. “I think he has a very compelling message,” Sperling responded. “I think there’s no question Bernie Sanders has been a very good candidate. He’s been clear and simple and disciplined. I think he’s tapping in to something very real.”
Hockett and Sperling are not the only ones with belief in Bernie. Elaine Cooper of Columbia, who represented the South Carolina Sierra Club at the event, said that although she likes and respects Hillary, “Bernie is spot-on about issues and is involved in every aspect. I trust Bernie, and bless him for running. [Hillary] never supported the keystone pipeline.”
The host next asked Pethokouis to explain Trump’s economic policy and why it is resonating with voters. “I don’t think the rise of Donald Trump has to do with his tax plan,” he stated. “In a way, I think it has to do with his immigration plan. His core voters believe that Donald Trump understands their problems and will fight for them. I think it’s that simple.”
What about South Carolina?
A new panel then took the stage: Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, the Director of Business Development at Clemson University; Matt Moore, the Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party; and Jaime Harrison, the Chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party.
This panel took on a more localized view, featuring questions largely surrounding the South Carolina primary. When asked how South Carolina’s economy is unique, Matt Moore responded, “It’s the fastest growing economy on the East Coast, with a durable-goods based economy. It’s a much more complex economy than those of New Hampshire or Iowa.”
Regardless of political affiliation or home state, all students are concerned with debt. What did the panel have to say about it?
According to Ben White, Politico’s chief economic correspondent, debt is on a dangerous path, lowering both incomes and economic growth. Studies conducted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation testify that by 2050, interest costs could be more than three times what the federal government has historically spent on education, R&D and infrastructure—combined. On top of that, without action, social security benefits will be cut by an average of 21% in 2034. Publicly held debt could rise to as much as 175% of GDP over the next three decades.
However, the Peterson Foundation also holds that solutions are out there. Possible resolutions to our long term fiscal challenges include entitlement reform, switching to a growth-friendly consumption tax, strengthening America’s social welfare system and investment in areas like infrastructure and defense.
Building a solid, sustainable fiscal foundation will support a strong and prosperous American economy that has resources to invest in the future of our children, unleash capital that our businesses need to grow and provide a reliable safety net for our vulnerable citizens. Although issues like national security have been dominating the campaign rhetoric, it is imperative that student voters educate themselves on economic issues and participate in political discourse.