By Weldon McWilliams IV, PhD
After watching the first Presidential debate I must admit that I was not really impressed by either candidate but I will also admit that Gov. Romney seemed much more prepared than he has looked on the campaign trail. There are still many questions that remain even after this debate; whose economic policy will produce more jobs, which candidate is more likely to reduce the deficit, how will they specifically go about reducing the budget?
These are just a few of the many that remain, however the question that I asked myself as I watched this debate is what would the most disadvantaged, unprivileged, marginalized citizen get from this debate. Sadly I believe this citizen would feel left out of the minds of both candidates. Romney’s policies seem to focus on how to keep the upper class comfortable (although in this debate some of his positions would make the wealthy class question if he is looking out for them), and Obama’s rhetoric was filled with his desire to strengthen the middle class.
For the citizen whose family hovers over the poverty line ($23,050 for a family of four), there was not much substance that they could take from this debate with the hopes that perhaps their reality could change. Issues that the poor and underprivileged face on a regular basis are not being addressed in this election by the two major parties. Many citizens that fit in this category live in cities that are filled with crime and blight, and these are not issues mentioned in the platform of either candidate.
Violence and crime has been a part of the American story for as long as America had been around, however the issue of crime and how to deal with it has not come up in this election. Crime is an issue that the underclass must deal with everyday. Many have come to believe that those who are poor are disproportionally the ones perpetuating the crimes, but if this is true (although there is much statistical information to combat that notion) then they are also disproportionally the ones who must deal with the aftermaths of crime as well.
If I live in an unsafe neighborhood, which candidate is speaking to my concern on how to make my neighborhood safer? Some may say that the particular issue is one that is mainly for the state and local governments. If this is the case, then the state/local governments have failed in their efforts to curb violence in many underprivileged communities.
Many state and local governments are more concerned over how to bring business and economic revitalization and more often than not, the funds that are given and to be used by the state often times are directed toward that effort. If one were to look at state budgets, they would be hard pressed to find funds that are used specifically and/or designed to aid residents in communities in which violent crimes occur more often then they should.
The government has proven in the past with policies such as FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, that they have the capacity to see to it that economic relief and employment opportunity also finds itself available to the underclass.
There are those who believe that one of the many ways to combat violence is to create jobs. I often wonder if the poorest citizens of the country feel left out of this debate as well. For both candidates the approach to job creation for are seemingly exclusionary of the poor citizen. For Gov. Romney, job creation will come from the top and trickle down. It is important to encourage the wealthy owners (through tax cuts) to create new jobs and hire new employees. For Pres. Obama, job creation comes from a “middle out” approach. It is important to give tax cuts for the middle class.
The hope is by putting more money into their pockets, it would encourage spending and increased consumerism would lead to jobs creating new jobs to meet the demand. Both of these ideas exclude any prescription for the citizen that is either below or around the poverty line. Whether the approach is a trickle down from the top, or trickle down from the middle, skepticism of trickle down economics should be understandable. Since the days of its promotion through President Ronald Reagan, the economic benefits of the “trickle-down” approach still has yet to reach the underprivileged class of America.
Both candidates have not identified their plans for the underclass. The next Presidential debate is scheduled for Tuesday Oct. 16 at Hofstra University, and the focus of the debate will center on domestic and foreign policy. I challenge both candidates to put forth a plan that will empower the underclass as well as the middle and upper class.
Both candidates want their supporters to believe that they not only have the intellect to obtain the presidency but also the compassion to care for all citizens. If this is indeed so then I encourage both candidates to add to their platform a case that will display that they too care for the “…least of these brethren,” and sistren.