By ED FINKELSTEIN
Columbia, Mo – In the first debate for U.S. Senate and Governor, the Democratic incumbents used facts and accomplishments to bolster their arguments for re-election while the Republican challengers used platitudes and promises devoid of specifics.
Speaking before the Missouri Press Association’s annual convention here Sept. 21, Governor Jay Nixon and Senator Claire McCaskill met face-to-face with their respective challengers, gubernatorial multi-millionaire (and discredited) businessman candidate Dave Spence and U.S. Representative Todd (“legitimate rape”) Akin who is seeking to unseat McCaskill.
Nixon was much subdued in his careful explanations of how his Administration has moved Missouri forward under very difficult circumstances while McCaskill’s responses would have made Harry Trumann stand up yelling, “Give ‘em hell Claire!”
After an hour-long individual back-and-forth session with each pair of contenders answering questions from a three-person panel, the results were clear: the Republicans left the stage tattered and torn, their campaigns receiving a real setback instead of the last-minute “turn-the-tide” they had hoped the debates would spark.
Here is a summary of the two events:
Gov. Nixon continues bi-partisan approach for improving economy
Columbia, Mo. - “We’ve focused on what’s good for Missourians, and it’s beginning to pay off,” Governor Jay Nixon said in his optimistic report of the State of Missouri’s economic health.
Covering a wide range of topics, the incumbent governor stressed that Missouri is moving forward as a result of bi-partisan efforts between Democrats and Republicans working under very difficult economic conditions. One thing all three candidates agreed on: jobs.
How to create new jobs and move Missouri into the future created a stark contrast between Governor Nixon and challenger Spence.
Nixon said that he has focused in areas where the potential for new growth is the greatest, pointing to the auto industry where Ford is investing $1.8 Billion in Kansas City to build a new car previously built in Europe and GM is investing $380 million in St. Louis that will create 1,600 new jobs to build the new Chevy Colorado.
In contrast, challenger Spence said Missouri needed to be a right-to-work (for less) state ignoring the fact that wherever that law exists, workers are the losers – in jobs, income, and standard of living.
And Spence didn’t stop there: he called for severe reforms to workers’ compensation and “true tort reform” (read that the ability for workers to sue employers or others) that would allow companies to run roughshod over workers and the public with no legal recourse to right grievous wrongs.
NIXON APPROACH WORKS
While Spence spoke is platitudes with little in the way of specific suggestions, Nixon provided hard proof that his bi-partisan approach to governing is working:
• Adding 17,900 new jobs, 4,900 of them in manufacturing this past month, the third largest job grow in America.
• Keeping Missouri’s unemployment rate below the national average.
• Maintaining fiscal discipline that cut $1.8 Billion from the budget without raising taxes, which allowed Missouri to maintain its AAA credit rating.
He said, “We are focusing on human capital” to include:
• Keeping college tuition costs down with Missouri have the lowest tuition rate in the nation, creating affordable education for kids.
• Expanding the state’s A-Plus two-year scholarship program that provides free tuition to community colleges. More than 150 schools are now participating with more than 65,000 new students eligible for the program.
• Increasing the money available for training to ensure workers have the skills for the future.
• Building on the state’s successes in selling Missouri products around the world.
• Downsizing the Missouri Dept. of Transportation and investing the $500 million saved into rebuilding the state’s infrastructure.
• Improving workers compensation to the point where rates are going down and more companies are coming into the market to create more competition.
• Exceeding the goals for Caring Missouri and providing “effective and efficient” health care for those in need.
Instead of suggesting programs and efforts to help Missouri, Spence said, “my best asset (for becoming governor)…is that I’m not a politician.”
And he parsed a lot of his opinions:
• On vouchers that would take public educational dollars and give the money to private schools, Spence said “not now,” but left it open for the future. Nixon was unequivocal in his opposition to vouchers. “We shouldn’t be spending public money on private schools. Radical ideas like this won’t work.”
• One of his key qualifications: he had a relative who was one of the original framers of the Constitution.
• Spence touted his business experience but seemed to forget that that success was partially due to government contracts and a $40 million bailout his bank received from the federal government, one of the few loans in the U.S. that has not yet been repaid.
While Spence described Missouri as “running into an iceberg” in his efforts to portray Missouri as a failing economy, Nixon remained optimistic that the state is moving forward and will continue to do so under his leadership.
The third party candidate, Libertarian Jim Higgins, was a non-entity in the debate. He was an embarrassment with his lack of knowledge and absolutely no perspective on how government works.
McCaskill protects workers values, benefits; Rep. Akin wants to kill them all
Columbia, Mo – The one issue that both incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill and challenger, Representative Todd Akin agreed on in their first statewide debate was that this race offers a “stark contrast” for Missouri voters.
After that, it was all down hill in terms of what’s best for Missouri and America from Akin. There was absolutely little or no agreement between the two on key issues facing America:
• Social Security
Akin favors raising the retirement age, cutting benefits.
McCaskill is fighting to preserve the system as it now exists and into the future.
• Health Care
Akin wants total repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA – known as “Obamacare”), which would dramatically increase the cost of health care for all, but especially seniors. “I will vote to repeal it if I get to the Senate,” Akin said emphatically.
McCaskill supports the ACA so that no one is denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, kids can stay on their parents plan until 26 years of age, everyone can get free preventative care and the donut hole for seniors Medicare drug costs is closed.
Akin favors downgrading the program, extend the retirement age, cutting $700 Billion in actual benefits from the program and ultimately ending Medicare by privatizing it.
Akin’s plan would give seniors a voucher so they could purchase health care on the open market; if the voucher wasn’t enough money, seniors would have to personally pay the difference, which could be substantial, experts say.
McCaskill is totally opposed to changing Medicare. She is totally opposed to the voucher program supported by Akin, saying it was “unconscionable to turn seniors over to the insurance companies.”
• Medicare Cuts
She challenged Akin on his charge that she supports cutting $700 Billion from Medicare.
“No one will lose a single benefit with my support of the $700 Billion reduction, which comes from the providers and hospitals, not a single dime from senior’s benefits,” McCaskill said. “The ACA getting savings and reduces costs by cutting corporate welfare, not benefits.”
In contrast, Akin’s support of vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget actually cuts $700 Billion in benefits in order to try and balance the budget.
• Women’s Health Care
Akin’s now famous quote on “legitimate rape” shows his real mindset on women’s health issues even though he tried to apologize for those comments, McCaskill charged.
“It’s not about talk, but about two visions of what’s right for a women to make her own health care choices,” she stressed.
McCaskill said she favors women making their own health care decisions including contraception at any stage of their lives. Akin is against women making their own decisions on contraception regardless of the reasoning: rape, incest or endangering the life of the mother.
• Student Loans/Kid’s Lunches
Akin is totally opposed to student loans, calling it a “cancer.” He wants to eliminate Pell grants for college tuition.
He’s also against the kids lunch program and any and all child nutrition programs despite the fact that millions of poor kids come to school hungry because their parents are unemployed or underemployed. Akin was one of only five representatives in the House to oppose this program, McCaskill pointed out.
McCaskill supports affordable student loans “because it shouldn’t be only rich kids that can go to college. And we need to have more Pell grants, not fewer, to help children get to college.”
She supports child nutrition programs because hunger impacts a child’s ability to learn.
• Killing the Post Office
Akin is in favor of privatizing the postal service and closing rural post offices, saying the Postal Service is going broke. “When it can no longer support itself, it should be put into the hands of private enterprise,” he said.
McCaskill challenged his analysis, noting that it was Congress that required the Post Office to fund health care and pensions 75 years into the future, a burden no other government agency is saddled with.
“Rural post officers are more than brick and mortar, they are an integral part of the community. They must stay open,” McCaskill stressed.
• Reducing the Deficit
Akin said that while he favors the Ryan budget approach of gutting the federal government, “It’s not as conservative as I would like it to be.”
McCaskill said that the Simpson-Bowles budget deficit plan introduced earlier this year has a lot of good ideas and is a solid framework from which to start, but that both sides have to come together in agreement, in other words, compromise.
She noted that House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama came to an agreement on cutting the deficit but that the Tea Party extremists in the House would have none of it because it wasn’t extreme enough and had some minor revenue increases by taxing the wealthy and eliminating loopholes.
In closing, McCaskill pointed out that “Congressman Akin wants to go back to the same policies that created the mess we are in today. Cut taxes for the wealthy and everything will be ok. I say we don’t have to go back. Let’s go forward and fix America’s problems.”
“It’s gridlock or compromise. I favor compromise, he is the party of gridlock,” she said.