In the world according to Republican presidential candidates, inequality isn’t a problem and climate change doesn’t exist.
The Fox News debate between ten of the top presidential contenders in the Republican primary largely ignored the issues most pressing to ordinary people and to the environment. Here are the seven worst moments from the debate in which the candidates and moderators ignored or actively opposed pressing issues of inequality.
1. Inequality is not a real problem
Not once did a candidate or moderator mention the fact that the gap between the ultra-wealthy and the rest of the country has risen to its highest point since the 1920s, or that one in five children in the U.S. live in poverty. They didn’t offer solutions to address this absurd situation, but instead acted like it just wasn’t happening. Should the minimum wage be increased? Is there a problem with Wall Street CEOs making 300 times more than their lowest paid employee? If the candidates had answers for addressing inequality, they certainly weren’t sharing them.
2. More tax breaks for the wealthy are needed
When candidates talked about the “flat tax” it’s important to remember that what they really mean is cutting taxes for the wealthy and raising taxes on the poor. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculated that shifting to a flat tax would constitute a $250 tax increase for those making between $40,000 to $50,000 and a $495,000 tax cut for millionaires. The tax code is certainly in need of reform, but a flat tax moves far in the wrong direction. Recent polling from Pew Research shows people are more concerned about the wealthy not paying enough in taxes than even their own tax rate. Why take from the poor to give to the rich?
3. Corruption is no big deal
Donald Trump wanted to make clear that when he was a mere donor and not a major candidate, he could get elected officials to do his bidding using campaign contributions. This form of legalized bribery was made infamous by the 2010 Citizens United ruling credited with opening the floodgates of campaign contributions. Rather than address what this means, the candidates tiptoed around the issue, while Trump boasted about buying Hillary Clinton’s presence at his wedding. Serious campaign finance reform is needed and necessary, but you didn’t hear that from this debate.
4. Climate change doesn’t exist
If you were holding your breath waiting for the candidates or moderators to mention climate change, you’d have ran out of oxygen long ago. To Fox News, climate change appears simply not to exist and thus it was not mentioned a single time. Instead, Jeb Bush reiterated his call for aggressive participation in the “energy revolution”, which could more accurately be called the “climate change accelerator”.
5. What student debt?
Student debt made an appearance during Marco Rubio’s remarks on having recently held $100,000 in loans. With 40 million student debtors across the country and each graduating class leaving school with more debt than the one previous, it’s clear this issue is critically important to the millions of voters, but apparently not the moderators.
6. Growth will solve all problems
John Kasich and Jeb Bush each made aspirational statements that unrestricted economic growth could serve as the panacea to the nation’s woes. Ignored was the fact that such growth would cause undue harm to the ecological systems on which we depend.
7. Black Lives (don’t) Matter
Of the entire two plus hour debate, less than 60 seconds was given to what the Fox anchors referred to as “the civil rights issue of our time”. The one candidate asked directly about Black Lives Matter, Scott Walker, refused to acknowledge the movement or the systemic racism that BLM seeks to change and instead offered a curt reply on increased police training.