The Debate You Didn't Hear About: Independent Candidates Discuss Economy, Education, and Syria
Candidates included Denise Bedio, Lynn S Kahn, Marque Lundgren, and John Ferguson. The candidates agreed on many things, most emphatically that the two-party system is wrong for the U.S., and it is time for the people to take their power back from corporate interests.
Bupp's questions focused on the economy, Common Core, and Syria.
All the candidates were against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Bedio and Kahn stated worries over child labor and environmental standards, with Bedio saying, "We have to worry about what other countries are doing" because their standards of food safety and pollution can harm our planet, and affect U.S. consumers.
Kahn gave an example of how nations' laws are being superseded by corporate law:
"[Under TPP], if corporations are hurt by a nation's laws, the corporation can sue the nation--and the corporation usually wins."
Ferguson, a calm and reserved sounding candidate, and founder of his Eco-Green party, said that he is against the TPP, but we are stuck with it and can only try to fix it.
A passionate Marque Lundgren, accused Obama of pushing the deal down the country's throat, adding that everything Obama has done has been bad. He cited a global warming deal with China that demands the U.S. reduce carbon emissions by 20%, but puts no demands on decreasing Chinese emissions. It is true that the deal does not require China to decrease current emissions. What the deal does is place caps on China's growth that will contribute to carbon emissions.
How will these candidates increase jobs for American workers?
The candidates voiced unique plans for putting people back to work. Bedio highlighted the failure of the United States to capitalize on industrial hemp, which she says will lead to jobs in many sectors including farming, small business, and manufacturing.Kahn vows to
cut $1 trillion in waste, and redirect the first $200 billion toward infrastructure, public health, green energy, and education-- which she purports will create neighborhood based jobs (mentored, peer, and group supported jobs), as well as new job categories in agriculture, housing and transportation. She also suggests expanding Job Corp and AmeriCorp.
John "Green" Ferguson, also had some new ideas about creating jobs-- mandate recycling. He says mandating recycling will create a large number of jobs. He also wants to turn the XL pipeline into a pipeline for water, to help desperate drought conditions in the West. Lastly, Ferguson says he'll work to reverse the trade deficit by focusing on 'made in America' products.
Marque Lundgren decried regulation as a form of punishment, stifling small business growth. He wants business regulation to be fundamentally changed from a form of punishment, to a system of rewards. He said his focus would be on the private sector, and educational opportunities.
The moderator, Mitchell Bupp, followed up by asking each candidate if they believe the unemployment numbers. Every candidate agreed that they do not, and expressed belief that worker participation rates reflect a more accurate number - putting unemployment around 30-40%.
Candidates also had novel ideas to ensure that people have a fair chance to be financially secure- though that did not always include a higher minimum wage as the answer. Bedio, and Lundgren had ideas that were most out of mainstream narratives.
"People need a living wage," said Bedio. To get there she believes, "we need to decrease the costs of utilities and products." This is an interesting idea considering the exorbitant mark ups placed on products from popcorn at the movies to medical products.
Lundgren believes that the solution starts with schools. He suggests that schools teach kids to put in minimum effort, implying that if our kids were trained to work harder, they would come out of school prepared to work harder to succeed. He also said he would return to the policies of incentivizing companies to hire new employees.
In fact, the Obama administration did enact some new incentives for businesses to hire workers in 2010.
Kahn, and Ferguson agreed that the minimum wage should increase to $15 and $12 respectively, though both acknowledged that the raise will negatively affect small businesses. Kahn offered that the government and large corporations can afford the change. Ferguson stated, "That is just business. If you can't pay a living wage, you shouldn't be in business."
Common Core and the Department of Education
All of the independent candidates were against, or ambivalent, on Common Core, but their reasons for being against the program were based on a forced, one-size-fits-all curriculum.
Common Core educational standards were created by a coalition of governors and state educators from 48 states. It covers areas of literacy and math, and provides standards, not a curriculum.States voluntarily adopt the program (43 have), but it is hotly criticized for 'taking over' education, grueling tests, and difficult study materials. Linked with the Common Core debate has been a
call from the political right to abolish the Department of Education.
Ferguson and Lundgren noted the need to improve our kids' knowledge with higher standards. Kahn and Lundgren have plans to make higher education free for all and Lundgren was adamant in the debate, saying, "Education is the future."
All candidates saw a role for a Department of Education, though all want to consolidate and re-evaluate the programs and funding of the institution.
Our role in Syria
All of Bupp's debate guests were critical of our role in Syria. Their views can be summed up well by a few of their quotes from the debate:
- "When we get involved we mess things up."
- "We shouldn't be sticking our noses in other people's business."
- "Arming rebels makes no sense."
- "We should take care of us, and let other countries take care of themselves."
- "[U.S. intervention] will backfire on US lives."
- "The moment of arming rebels has passed."
- "We tried to arm the rebels- it was a failure, and showed the U.S. incompetent."
- "We need to focus on the nature of war and peace building."
- "I stand for starting an age of peace building."
- "Our role should be contributing to all ceasefires and peace talks."
- "Veterans support peace building more than we understand."
- "We should work through the UN, not overstep our bounds, based on our interests of other peoples being a democracy."
- "We should promote peace, and world peace through the UN."
- "Our involvement in Syria is wrong."
- "This is a slippery slope- we were armed rebels, supported by France."
- "We must foster peace, and helping rebels has its place."
- "We must be careful who we help and how."
- "We should look at the long view, and who we call our friends and allies."
- "Google Assad's wife- Assad is not a monster."
Does this debate matter?
What are the chances that any of these candidates will get elected?
It is an arduous task to get onto the ballot or to get name recognition on a national level for a write in campaign. Kahn and Lundgren are working with larger independent networks and grassroots volunteers to get ballot access. Kahn says her campaign will release her first endorsement soon. Bedio is focusing on a write-in campaign and potential ballot access where the requirements are not too burdensome. Ferguson did not get back immediately with details on their progress with ballot access.
Ballotpedia estimates that an independent candidate will need to garner 900,000 signatures to get on the general election ballot nationwide.