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Political groups debate national policy

By Domenica Ghanem
On April 29, 2014

  • The College Democrats, seated at the left table, faced off with the College Republicans in a debate Tuesday night on topics ranging from marijuana legalization to universal preschool. Patrick Gosselin/The Daily Campus

The College Republicans and College Democrats got heated in a debate over the economy, healthcare, social issues and education Tuesday night at the Student Union Theater.
On a $10.10 federal minimum wage, the Republicans suggested an optional increase which would give employers the option to increase minimum wage and provide them with a tax subsidy. The Democrats disagreed and said where minimum wage is concerned, the government has to intervene.
"We can't talk about American exceptionalism if people working full-time aren't having enough money to eat or to feed their children," Kevin Alvarez, a democrat and fourth-semester political science major, said.
When it comes to income inequality, Marissa Piccolo, a democrat and second- semester political science and economics double major said it's about equal opportunity, not necessarily equal results.
Republican Paul DaSilva, a second-semester political science and economics major said the Democrats' position on income inequality is "Great, you made a lot of money, but in order to achieve our vision of an economy where peoples incomes are more equal, we're going to take your money away from you."
Both sides agreed that the underlying issue that needs to be addressed in terms of income inequality is education.
However, there was a great division in their views on making pre-school universal.
The Republicans said it was an idea that sounds good, but studies have produced mixed results at best and that it would be a wrongly used allocation of public funds.
Republican Gianna Bodnar, a second-semester marketing and political science major, said the government cannot replace parenting with government regulations.
"Expecting families to provide that support for children is not a viable option," Piccolo said. "It's about positive behavioral support that has been proven to support greater academic achievement later in life."
Alvarez said the reason studies have shown poor results is because the government abandons kids as soon as they get to the next level of education.
Both sides agreed that affirmative action in colleges should be based first on income levels, not on race.
Social issues, like privacy rights and drug policy, saw divisions within both parties. A member of the Republican party who identifies as a Libertarian, Jeff Alfonso, an eighth-semester economics major, disagreed with his party on the prohibition of marijuana. He said the government should end prohibition and spend more money on treating people with drug addiction.
Bodnar vehemently disagreed.
"I think it's absolutely disgusting that we legalize marijuana in the United States," Bodnar said. "It sets a precedent for legalizing other drugs, where will the line be drawn?"
The debate on marijuana legalization turned into a conversation on mandatory minimum sentences, where democrat Alvarez and republican DaSilva agreed that they are bad policy.
The debate got most heated on the topics of healthcare and the Second Amendment.
The Democrats supported the Affordable Care Act, citing the millions of people who are now covered that were not, including those with preexisting conditions. The Republicans said it was ineffective, and individuals should not have their choices stifled by mandates.
"These are people's lives, these are not commodities," Piccolo said. "This is not an area where we can let the market decide the winners and the losers."
Alfonso's main issue with the Affordable Care Act was that President Obama did not keep his promise that if you were satisfied with your current healthcare plan, you would be able to keep it.
The parties were asked how they would shape the debate on the Second Amendment and how they would define militia, but the conversation focused more on gun control.
DaSilva said he agrees that there should be restrictions, but disagreed on what those should be. He said semi-automatic rifles are not any more dangerous than pistols, and less than one percent of murders are committed with those rifles.
Democrat Jayanti Dixit, an eighth semester history major said the goal of gun control laws is not to cut down on gun violence, because there are other factors that play into that, but to cut down on the potential for mass killings.
"If you can agree with me that drug prohibition is not successful, why can't you agree with me that gun prohibition is not successful?" Alfonso said.
Both sides agreed that there is a cultural problem surrounding issues of gun violence and mental health issues.
"We do very little to address cultural and societal issues because we go on these tangents about what gun law actually is," Alvarez said.
The parties did not get a chance to talk about other social issues they had planned, but said they hope to return to them at a later debate.

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