Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    Live from Long Island: A preview of the Presidential debate

    The beauty of living in a democracy is that every citizen is allowed his or her say. We can argue semantics and get into the influence of money in politics and why Citizens United is a bad, bad thing later but the point is that we have the pleasure of hearing our candidates out before electing them to represent us. Something that we often take for granted as we become inundated by emails and robo-calls and a BREAKING! NEWS! national poll every other night that the two candidates are neck and neck. It's tedious. Hence my absolute glee last week during and after the Vice Presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Post-debate I told everyone I encountered that it was not only solid on policy and good for my wonkish ways but hot damn! That was some good television. The antithesis of the first Presidential debate during which the the President attempted to be polite, Mitt Romney smirked and I found myself sleeping but with my eyes open.

    Now that we've come to our second debate I expect less to be lulled to sleep by the dulcet tones of Candy Crowley but more oomph from the President. Come to think of it that's what the first debate lacked: President Obama being Presidential. Remember during the Democratic National Convention when he made his acceptance speech and pundits - of the armchair and CNN variety alike - oohed and ahhed over his speech? It was because he stood his ground and not only reaffirmed his commitment to his country and his job but that he not simply a candidate running for President but He *IS* the President, damn it!

    My hope is that he takes charge this evening and leaves the pleasantries and politeness to the end of the evening.

    My other hope - and God, this often seems like a tall order - is to hear more about education. I know that we get the same talk of Pell Grants and the President's Race to the Top program and his changed on teacher evaluations but is that really all? Is there nothing more to education? Which many would agree that there is. I continue to go back to the fact that education is the foundation of a successful society and while we can debate the economy, debt ceiling, deficit, sequestration* and jobs, why cannot there be a stronger discussion as to how education will greatly impact the future of this economy? People in poverty are there by unfortunate circumstance and it is education that can often pull them from the wreckage. The President is going to use tonight's debate to speak directly with the American people about his plans for moving the country forward. AS HE SHOULD. I just think that education needs to be a bigger part of that conversation as opposed to a talking point lopped on towards the end. But that's just me.

    Below I've included video from both the President and Mitt Romney's appearances on NBC News' Education Nation. So tell me, there are three hours until this debate: What do you hope to see?

    *I'll explain sequestration next week. Promise.

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy





    "Two Visions One Choice"

    "I don't want to be a country where a shrinking number of people are doing really well and then a growing number are barely able to get by." - President Barack Obama

    A fantastic video as to where President Obama and Governor Romney differ when it comes to education and opportunity.


    The Denver Debate 

    It’s a disappointment to be disappointed. When your expectations - high as they might be - are not met. This is exactly how I felt last night while watching the first presidential debate between Governor Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Like, someone took a pin to my already lackluster balloon and popped it right in my face. I wanted more from the President though it was Romney’s to gain ground but the President seemed perturbed as if being there was the last thing he wanted to do on a Wednesday night. Though, I will give him some credit for spending an anniversary debating the minutiae of the Simpson-Bowles commission as opposed to enjoying a steak courtesy of Bobby Flay. But - and this is where I wanted to take him by the shoulders - that is his job. He needs to be out there, in front of the people, laying things out for them because far too many people are dependent upon this election and the fate of this country.

    Mitt Romney, on the other hand, was on point. The Governor had the most to lose with a base who has (well, had) all but thrown in the towel and shrugged off his candidacy. With one mistake after the other, Team Romney had to be in it to win it and they were. He looked strong while the President looked like he couldn’t be arsed. Actually, let me take back what I said; I’m not just disappointed but angry. I wanted for the President to deliver and he didn’t.

    Beyond debate performance a few notes that you may agree or disagree so be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments:

    Dodd-Frank and Simpson-Bowles: It is my belief that a debate not only gives the audience an opportunity to see how the candidates are on policy but also to have those policies broken down for them in bite size pieces that they can grasp. The whole “Dodd/Frank” “Simpson-Bowles” discussions while pertinent to how a budget is formed going forward and good for the inside the Beltway types went totally over the heads of the average American. Instead of referring to Dodd/Frank as Wall Street Reform and then having the opportunity to broaden upon that (which, dude, Jim Leher - I love you but you were the iceberg to this Titanic of a debate), the same with Simpson-Bowles which is a budget plan for deficit reduction but you wouldn’t know that from the wonkish back and forth. The third debate is town hall style which will give a sense of conversation between the candidates and the voters instead of between the candidates and a sleepy Jim Leher.

    The Middle Class v. Upper Class: Mitt Romney had a really difficult time not giving a shout out to his upper echelon homies. I honestly do not think that Mitt Romney has any clue what goes on in the average American middle class family - the struggles they go through or that despite being middle class many are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. They continue to be squeezed and Mitt Romney says that tax relief will be provided. Interesting that tax relief will be provided to those in the middle while at the same time nothing changes for those in the upper tax brackets so the question is; where does the revenue come from? Unless of course the plan - and we’ll get to Romney’s plans or lack thereof in a minute - is to just go around cutting services and voucherizing education and Medicare until the budget is balanced? I’m no economist but that is a potential for disaster.

        Speaking of the middle class, Romney has long bugged me with his assumptions that folks can just ask their parents for a loan to attend college or start a business this came to a head last night when he suggested that private insurance is the way to go for Medicare beneficiaries. Forgetting, of course, that many of those on Medicare do not have that option. You see, Mitt Romney is so used to being able to pick and choose what he wants that he is no longer cognizant of the fact that not everyone is able to have the choices that he has. Those with choices and opportunities have those thanks to money. People on Medicare are usually on Medicare because of the need for assistance and if they could just scoot on over to Blue Cross, Blue Shield for their needs, I’m sure they would do so as the latter does provide the better service. But not everyone has that choice.

    What’s in a plan: Governor Romney has a plan to provide tax relief to those in the middle class but not to reduce the taxes for those who are in upper brackets. He also has a plan to close tax loopholes and deductions. Then there’s his plan for younger people who will eventually need Social Security and Medicare. I’m gonna sit here and hold my breath while Mr. Romney explains this plans. Take your time, Mr. Romney, we’ve got another - checks calendar - five weeks. No pressure.

    In which I need the assistance of an IRS auditor: Back to this debate being super wonkish and straight up nerdy, the part I had trouble following was on tax loopholes. Like, totally went over my head. And I’m assuming that if it went over my semi-smart head, the a lot of people just started staring at the screen blankly or changed the channel to like a Real Housewives franchise.
        See if you can follow along here: Romney is proposing to close tax loopholes and do away with some deductions and exemptions instead of a rate increase. The problem is that the deductions and loopholes he is proposing to close will have nothing to do with the wealthy. He is behaving as if he’s doing an across the board but he’s not. For example the mortgage interest deduction; right now you can deduct the interest on the mortgage of your residence if you have up to $1.1 million indebtedness. On mortgages over that amount you cannot deduct the interest. Who are the owners of homes worth under $1.1 million? THE MIDDLE CLASS. Basically all of these loopholes and deductions that Mitt Romney is so eager to rid us of will only hurt the middle class. The biggest deduction for the middle class is a mortgage deduction so to close it would essentially screw them over.

    Education!: Unfortunately for a debate that was focused on domestic policy the education talk was few and far between. There were mentions of the administration’s pet project, Race to the Top and the Education Jobs Fund but I have yet to see a concrete plan from either candidate on what to do about the albatross hanging around the neck of public education in this country with is No Child Left Behind. While the President recently handed out waivers to several states so that they could get around mandates for Adequate Yearly Progress and allow for multiple measures in testing, it’s still the elephant in the room for many educators. NCLB is ten years old and thus far no real steps have been made to change it or reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While RTTT has led to reforms in 46 states (including NY - HOLLA!) as well as bringing all education stakeholders together I wouldn’t call it a rousing success. In a round about way the strike in Chicago was due to new teacher evaluation systems that were implemented thanks to RTTT and the NCLB waivers.
       What really struck me about Governor Romney’s ‘plan’ was not that he feels that education should be dealt with on a state/local level but that students receiving funding for IDEA or Title I (these are special education students and under privileged students, respectively), well, their dollars shouldn’t be given via formula funding to a state or a school but the money should follow the child. Here’s that pesky ‘voucher’ word again - each student should have a voucher and the funding should follow the child. Of course neglecting to remember that by allowing the funding to follow a child the public school in question will either have no funding whatsoever and become insolvent or what about the rest of the children? As not every child at a low performing school will be able to be moved to an area school because of space issues. So what happens then? Again with that whole plan thing. Romney’s got five weeks to figure it out.

    What did you think of the debate? Did you watch? Did either candidate ‘speak’ to you and your concerns for the country going forward? What would you like to see in their next time out?

    Full debate transcript

    Wonkbook: Everything you need to know about the first debate

    Obama campaign: Adjustments will be made in debate strategy

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