Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Presidential Debate on Domestic Policy That Does Not Mention Issues Related to Race Or Class.

As I watched the second of the three scheduled presidential debates last night, I thought to myself, “what a charade.”

I’ll probably end up holding my nose and voting for the Obama-Biden ticket, but nothing the Senators from either Illinois or Arizona said last night made me feel confident that they really understand or care how race and class continue to shape life chances and opportunities in American society.

The lack of a substantive discussion of issues related to race or class was very unsettling and should disturb anyone seriously committed to racial and social justice in American society.

For example, consider that the subprime mortgage meltdown has a huge racial dimension. This fact has been ignored by both candidates.

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, for the last 40 years, homeownership has been the ticket to middle-class stability for many black and Latino families. Studies show that the subprime meltdown is disproportionately affecting people of color: their total loss of wealth could reach $200 billion.

Moreover, because the wealth of people of color is so heavily dependent on homeownership, the fallout from the possible loss of a home could affect several generations (remember, homes are often passed on to the next generation, which becomes instant wealth for the new homeowner).

There was no real discussion of the devastating impact of the home mortgage meltdown on cities with large non-white populations, such as Detroit and Cleveland. Entire neighborhoods in these cities look like wastelands, as people unable to keep up with their mortgage payments are either being forced out of or simply abandoning their homes.

Also, noticeably absent from this debate was a real discussion about the needs, preferences, and concerns of working-and lower-class Americans. Everything is about the middle-class (codeword, the white middle-class). What about the black, Latino, Asian, Native American, and, even, white working classes?

“The middle class need a rescue package, and that means tax cuts for the middle class,” declared Senator Obama.

Without a doubt, the centerpiece of Senator Obama’s tax policy is what he describes as “a middle-class tax cut to 95 percent of working Americans.” Given that 95 percent of Americans are not in the middle-class, this is a very bizarre statement. But it does explain where his priorities are, which is to appeal to the white middle-class, by placating to their sense of entitlement. Many middle-class whites subscribe to the view voiced by Senator Clinton: that they are “hard-working Americans” who deserve special treatment from their government.

Moreover, neither candidate truthfully addressed how the $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street, a projected $500 billion dollar federal budget deficit, a 10 trillion dollar debt, and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will affect their domestic policy priorities as President. Without new revenues, painful cuts to government programs – more than just ending earmarks or freezing spending for entitlement programs – may be required.

What will happen to funding for programs that aid children and the elderly? What will happen to funding for job training programs for economically devastated urban communities? What about funding for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary education? What about Social Security? What about Universal Healthcare?

Rather than tell the American people what they need to hear, both candidates have selected to tell us what they think we want to hear. That sounds to me like the POLITICS OF OLD rather than the politics of change.

As the debate entered its second hour and shifted to the foreign policy arena with so many domestic policy questions unanswered, I thought to myself, why we shouldn't be switching topics: “Who is speaking for the urban poor? Who is speaking for the rural poor? Who is raising their issues?”

Not Senator Obama!

Not Senator McCain!

Senators’ Obama and McCain, I thought to myself, “What about a rescue package for the poor and working-classes who are suffering in this economy?”

I finished this debate more depressed than ever about the major party candidates I have to choose between in November.

I thought to myself, “I’d rather vote for an Aunt Jemima-Uncle Ben ticket than either an Obama-Biden or McCain-Palin ticket.”