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The Indy’s Guide to the Primaries

Jessica Lee Feb 4, 2008

While Democratic candidates are promising “change” after seven years of the Bush administration’s policies, what the candidates say, and what they actually mean, are two different things.

Now that the primary field has been narrowed to a Clinton-Obama scuffle, The Indypendent takes a look at the dismal reality of two leading candidates’ platforms. For comparison, we also look at the positions of John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich, who recently dropped their presidential bids. Edwards and Kucinich will still be on the ballot in New York’s Feb. 5 Democratic primary.

ENVIRONMENT

While the positions advocated by the leading Democrats may sound appealing to voters — they do little to address the urgency of global climate change, and do not solve any of the underlying causes. Climate scientists claim that reducing carbon emissions by 70 percent by 2050 will still result in a 3.6 degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures.

Experts say that a biofuel “solution” will displace millions of people, disrupt global food markets and create an ecological nightmare. Carbon-trading schemes only create a mega-billion dollar giveaway of the public airspace to private interests while not reducing much pollution. And there is no such thing as “clean” coal — mining and processing coal is ecologically devastating and harmful to local communities.

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Calls for 60 billion gallons of homegrown biofuels to be available for use in vehicles in the United States by 2030
  • Supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Supports “clean coal” and coal-to-liquid fuels if they emit 20 percent less carbon than conventional fuels
  • Does not want to emphasize nuclear power as an energy source unless waste-storage and other problems are solved
  • Source: Grist.org

BARACK OBAMA

  • Calls for 60 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced in the United States each year by 2030
  • Supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Supports “clean coal” and coal-to-liquid fuels if they emit 20 percent less carbon conventional fuels
  • Supports nuclear power and has received campaign donations from nuclear power companies
  • Source: Grist.org


JOHN EDWARDS

  • Calls for 65 billion gallons of biofuels to be produced in the United States each year by 2025
  • Supports a cap-and-trade system to cut U.S. emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050
  • Calls for a ban on new coal power plants unless they are compatible with carbon-capture and -storage technology. Opposes coal-to-liquid fuel technologies
  • Opposes nuclear power
  • Source: Grist.org

DENNIS KUCINICH

  • Says biofuel research must be balanced with global agricultural and environmental concerns
  • Supports a phase-out of all coal power and coal mining
  • Supports complete phase-out of all nuclear power plants, and for more stringent regulation of nuclear waste
  • Proposes “Global Green Deal” to create sustainable energy production in United States and with partner developing nations
  • Proposes “Works Green Administration” to provide new jobs and stimulate the economy
  • Supports signing the Kyoto Treaty
  • Source: Grist.org

WAR

While overwhelming opposition to the war in Iraq was cited as a main reason for voters’ rejection of Republican candidates in the 2006 elections, none of the leading Democratic candidates have proposed immediate withdrawal of the troops before 2013. As senators, Clinton, Edwards and Obama voted to continue funding and authorizing the war.

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Voted for Iraq war in 2002 and subsequent re-authorizations of force and funding through 2007
  • Now supports phased withdrawal of some, but not all, troops by 2013
  • Voted in favor of sanctions against Iran and the decision to list an Iranian military unit as a terrorist organization
  • Supports dramatic increase in the Pentagon’s budget and expansion of the size of the military
  • Received $52,600 in campaign donations from the five largest U.S. arms manufacturers

BARACK OBAMA

  • Publicly opposed the Iraq invasion, in his first two years as a U.S. Senator he voted for every war funding request totaling $300 billion.
  • Voted against a 2006 bill to begin withdrawing troops out of Iraq by July 2007
  • Claims as president that he will “immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq” but refuses to pledge that all troops will leave by 2013
  • Supports direct negotiations with Iran, but says all options should be on the table, including military force

JOHN EDWARDS

  • Voted for the Iraq War in 2002 and continued to support the war by voting for funding and reauthorizations of force through 2005; renounced his vote to invade Iraq during the 2004 presidential campaign;
  • Proposes immediately withdrawing 40,000 to 50,000 combat troops; refuses to pledge to remove all troops by 2013
  • Favors direct negotiations with Iran, but has criticized the Bush administration and United Nations for not being confrontational enough

DENNIS KUCINICH

  • Voted against Iraq War in 2002 and has subsequently voted against every bill authorizing more troops and money
  • His “Strength through Peace” agenda includes defunding the war and withdrawing troops immediately
  • Supports direct diplomacy with Iran and opposes military action; claims U.S. must disarm its own nuclear program
  • Voted against the Iran sanctions and to list a state military unit as a terrorist organization
  • Proposed to create a U.S. Department of Peace

HEALTHCARE

If you are one of the tens of millions without healthcare, don’t fret.

Clinton and Edwards aim to create universal healthcare not by addressing a failed system, but rather by making it illegal to not have health insurance. Their plans will recreate on a nationwide scale the failed healthcare plan of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, which will slap $1,000+ fines on residents who do not buy health insurance. Obama, on the other hand, simply proposes using tax dollars to further subsidize the profit-driven private insurers that have failed to provide healthcare to millions of Americans.

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Proposed plan will require every U.S. citizen to obtain
  • private health insurance
  • Plan will be subsidized by employers, public funding and the elimination of tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000
  • Supports strengthening Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Has received $269,436 from pharmaceuticals/health products industry in the 2008 election cycle (Editor’s Note: These numbers will be outdated Feb. 1 when candidates report their next round of financial reports.)

BARACK OBAMA

  • Proposes a new national “affordable” health plan that would include guaranteed eligibility, portability and subsidy for those who do not qualify for Medicaid
  • Plan will be subsidized by employers, public funding and the elimination of tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000
  • Allows individuals to opt out, which means healthy individuals are less likely to purchase insurance, raising the cost for everyone else
  • Will require that all children have healthcare coverage
  • Will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Program programs
  • Has received $261,784 from the pharmaceuticals/health products industry (Editor’s Note: These numbers will be outdated Feb. 1 when candidates report their next round of financial reports.)

JOHN EDWARDS

  • Proposed plan will require everyone to obtain health insurance by law
  • Plan will be subsidized by employers, public funding and the elimination of tax cuts for households earning more than $200,000
  • Will create regional private “Health Care Markets” that must include at least one public plan
  • Expand Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program

DENNIS KUCINICH

  • Supports a universal single-payer not-for-profit healthcare plan for everyone, “Medicare for All”
  • Plan would eliminate insurers and use a singlepayer tax pool to fund healthcare providers directly
  • Co-sponsored the “Medicare for All” bill (H.R. 676: The U.S. National Health Insurance Act) in the U.S. House of Representatives

EDUCATION

While the specific platforms on education vary from candidate to candidate, neither Clinton, Obama or Edwards has proposed ending the Bush administration’s controversial No Child Left Behind. Made law in 2002, No Child Left Behind promised to reform the nation’s “failing” schools, by imposing frequent standardized testing.

Under the plan, schools that fail to achieve improvement in students’ performances are penalized and eventually will be shut down. Many teachers say that the rigorous testing is burdensome, forcing students to regurgitate information without understanding. The issue of “merit pay” based on students’ performances on standardized testing, is also a contentious issue among educators.

In contrast, Kucinich’s education agenda is part of a larger plan to reprioritize values in America, including addressing inequities rooted in race, class, gender and sexual preference discrimination that pervade the classroom. Noting that only 2.9 percent of the budget is spent on education, Kucinich would slice the pie differently, giving less money to war and more to peace initiatives, which include taking care of America’s youth.

HILLARY CLINTON

  • Wavers between ending and reforming the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
  • Supports universal pre-kindergarten education
  • Supports merit-based payment per school, not individual teachers

BARACK OBAMA

  • Supports NCLB, voted for it and wants more money to fund it
  • Agrees with Bush administration on more “accountability” through standardized testing, charter schools and corporate investment in the education system
  • Supports “merit pay” per individual teacher, not per school

JOHN EDWARDS

  • Supports a merit-based pay plan of offering raises (up to $5,000) for teachers who improve their classes in under-served schools
  • Supports creating a “West Point-like” academy to train teachers
  • Supports reforming NCLB, after having voted for it as senator

DENNIS KUCINICH

  • Proposed cutting the U.S. Pentagon budget 15 percent to fund free universal education (prekindergarten through college)
  • Voted for NCLB, but co-sponsored “Keep our Pact Act,” mandating NCLB to be fully funded every year
  • Wavers between ending and reforming the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)
  • Supports universal pre-kindergarten education
  • Supports merit-based payment per school, not individual teachers

Additional reporting by Mike Burke and Bennett Baumer

Illustrations by Gino Barzizza