Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass Democrats, College Republicans come together for heated debate

Health care, immigration, taxes argued
(Collegian file photo)
(Collegian file photo)

The UMass Democrats and UMass College Republicans came together for a heated debate Wednesday night, one which touched upon four major U.S. political topics: the Iran Deal, taxes, healthcare and immigration.

The event was held in the University of Massachusetts Commonwealth Honors College Events Hall and was moderated by professor Daniel Gordon of the history department,

For the Democrats, the debate team consisted of Jack Eccles, a junior operations and information management major and vice president of the organization, and treasurer Kim Phan, a junior political science and communications double major. Republican debaters included the organization’s vice president and sophomore political science major Carly Bishop and senior sports management major John Maloney, who’s the organization’s treasurer.

Prior to the debate, Gordon expressed his approval of the event, saying, “There aren’t enough events like this that offer multiple viewpoints on issues.”

Over the course of 90 minutes, debaters tackled the issues of DACA, individual mandates, the recent tax bill and several other contentious issues. The packed events hall was flooded with students from both groups, as well as some independents.

The GOP won a preliminary coin flip and elected the Democrats to begin. Phan delivered the opening statement for the Democrats, advocating for support of the Affordable Care Act and the passage of a DREAM act to assist nearly 790,000 immigrants affected by its suspension. The organization’s support for the U.S. taking a more active approach in foreign policy through actions like the Iran Nuclear Deal was also made known.

Maloney presented the opening statement for the Republicans, focusing more on the definition of a political party as a coalition of different peoples and interests. Maloney highlighted the change of the Republican Party, initiated by President Donald Trump, and praised the bipartisan nature of the debate.

After these statements, the debate started with discussion of the issue of taxation. Bishop began for the Republicans by saying, “High taxes prevent people and corporations from investing in what they dream of.”

Eccles rebutted for the Democrats, responding to Bishop by saying, “We believe tax reform should be focused on people who need it the most.”

When the debate opened to a more back and forth discussion, both groups agreed on ensuring tax relief without sacrificing government services. Eccles stated, “I don’t agree with trickle-down economics, I think there’s a better way,” while also voicing his disagreement with removing the state deduction in the newly introduced Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Bishop disagreed, saying, “Lowering the corporate tax rate allows investment that helps the economy,” and cited American companies that have left for countries like Ireland, with lower rates. Maloney voiced agreement in simplifying the tax code and eliminating specific cuts for special groups.

The debate shifted to healthcare, as Phan opened for the Democrats. Championing the accomplishments of the ACA, Phan argued, “Any effort to repeal and replace the act is against the wishes of the American people.”

Maloney countered by pointing to Republican election successes in 2010, 2014 and 2016 as referendums on the ACA, while also acknowledging the need to reform the U.S. healthcare system; he said, “Using market forces to help reform would be more effective than government forces.”

The two parties sparred over healthcare as a right, with Maloney citing the rising costs making healthcare as a right difficult. Instead, Maloney proposed a reform that allowed companies to sell more individual plans. Eccles pointed to the value and necessity of such a right, and stated the ACA helped make healthcare more cost effective.

The debate moved on to the Iran Nuclear Deal. Bishop opened by citing the repression of the Iranian government, arguing, “This deal is not good for America,” also noting that the deal will expire in 10 years. Eccles responded by referencing the relief of sanctions in Iran, saying, “Hiding nuclear material is not like hiding things from your parents.”

Finally, the debate ended with immigration. Maloney rejected the nativist label given by critics of the Republican immigration platform by saying, “We need to stop illegal immigration before tackling a path to citizenship.”

“The cost of deporting these illegal immigrants will be too great,” noted Phan, while promoting family reunification. Eccles decried attacks by Trump on legal immigrant programs. Despite the divide in opinion, both sides advocated for a moderate solution that helps legal immigrants find a path to citizenship.

The debate ended with closing statements by both parties. Eccles spoke for the Democrats, celebrating the legislative achievements of the party in the past. Eccles called for a more inclusive America, while re-stating the UMass Democrats’ positions on the four issues and criticizing the president for “presenting false choices to Americans.”

Bishop gave the UMass GOP’s closing statement, saying, “The Republican Party embodies the values of the Founding Fathers,” and justified their work for a better future. In both statements, Democrats and Republicans called for greater compromise, bipartisanship and civic involvement in the upcoming fall elections.

Following the debate, Professor Gordon expressed approval in the discussion and the variety of positions heard. UMass Democrats president Sonia Guglani, a senior marketing and economics major, was also upbeat, saying, “I’m glad everyone here tonight was able to hear a variety of ideas.” UMass GOP President Alex Gearty, a sophomore mathematics major, agreed and added, “We’re looking forward to working with the Democrats like this in the future.”

Robert Powell can be reached at [email protected].

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    Kathleen FitzgeraldMar 2, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Congrats to UMass hosting a debate that shares both sides of these critical issues in our country today. College is suppose to be a safe,open environment to learn and share ideas freely without ostracizing, pigeonholing or demeaning the perspective of others. As an alum, I recall my undergraduate days fondly when I had continuous opportunities to meet and share ideas with college peers. Well done!