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Campus political groups square off in round table debate

Last Thursday, Oct. 25, representatives from the three Case Western Reserve University political groups squared off on four topics, including America and the World, Business in America, Working in America, and Higher Education in America in a debate hosted by The Observer.

Lasting just over two hours, the roundtable discussion included Case Democrats representative Ben Robertson, Case College Republicans representative Andrew Breland, and Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) representative Barton Ziganti. The debate was recorded by Information Technology Services and will be posted on MediaVision in the coming weeks.

Students were able to interact with the debate by submitting questions through social media sites prior to the debate and by asking questions and responding to the debaters’ statements through a live Twitter feed. The final section consisted of two questions that summarized the submitted Twitter questions.



To kick off the debate, the three representatives were asked to give opening statements that represented their party and candidate.

Breland stated that he believes the nation has suffered under the current Obama administration, saying that unemployment and debt are worsening.

According to Breland, Romney has a five-point plan focusing on energy independence, trade that works for America, providing Americans with the skills needed to succeed, cutting the deficit, and championing small business. In Breland’s opinion, this five-point plan is the only way the nation will return to good economic and global standing and is the only way college students will not end up living in their parents’ basements.

Ziganti chose to open up his party’s beliefs without solely focusing on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

“I believe everyone is a Libertarian in some way,” Ziganti said. “The two-party system has failed. Obama has failed and Romney won’t do any better. Why should voters have to choose the lesser of two evils?”

Closing off the introductions, Robertson briefly stated how he believes President Obama has turned this nation around and improved job growth in America.


America and the World

With the opening statements complete, moderator Tyler Hoffman began the debate with a question regarding the danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

In Robertson’s view, a nuclear Iran is an obvious threat, and he believes that working closely with the United Nations and making the U.S. the leader in the world in this matter is the way to counteract the issue.

All three representatives agreed that nuclear Iran is a danger. However, Breland believes that the President wants to continue to do more of the same, which has been ineffective in the past. According to Breland, Iran will soon have a functioning nuclear device; the only way to prevent this, he suggested, is to elect Romney. Breland stated that Romney won’t take threats from Iran and will instead take them “head on.”

In a less aggressive attack, Ziganti believed that the United States needs to find a peaceful solution and stop threatening other countries.

The debate then shifted from nuclear Iran to America’s role in world defense spending, with the Republican representative speaking first.

“The current administration has failed in Iran. We’ve seen that these sanctions don’t work and something else needs to happen,” Breland said. “The United Nations is a useless organization.”

Breland then closed by saying that, as the largest superpower, America needs to find its own way to control world defense spending.

Agreeing that the current sanctions haven’t worked, Ziganti brought up that the United States is still continuing to trade with Iran.

“We don’t need to assassinate and we don’t need to waste all this spending overseas,” said Ziganti. “Defense spending should be kept at home.”

Returning to the Republican representative’s point regarding the UN, Robertson stated that he believes America’s role should be working with all world leaders to make sure everyone prospers. Robertson said that America needs to pay soldiers properly and keep them safe from terror. One way to do this, according to Robertson, would be to secure borders, such as the Mexican-American border, and to continue being an active member of the UN.

The last question of the section, before moving onto closing statements, regarded escalated military control in Afghanistan and how high-tech warfare should be dealt with.

“We need to end the conflict in Afghanistan. We’ve failed in the past ten years we’ve spent there,” said Ziganti. “The use of drones is 100 percent human rights abuse and we need to have conventional military when we go to war.”

Agreeing with Ziganti’s point that the conflict in Afghanistan needs to end, Robertson continued to discuss the president’s plan to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014 without exception. According to Robertson, before withdrawing, the United States needs to make sure that Afghani forces are ready to take over and that the veterans are ready to return to normal life.

Conversely, Breland stated that he believes that it is the United States’ duty of care to protect the people of Afghanistan, but he also does not want to keep combat troops there.

The section then moved onto closing statements, starting with Ziganti saying that the United States is overly optimistic in thinking that Afghani forces will be ready to take over and protect their country. According to Ziganti, security forces are scared and do not want to side with America, the so-called losing group. At the same time, Ziganti believes the United States cannot continue to use drones; as effective as they have been in killing enemies, civilian casualties have been too high.

Robertson stated that the country needs to move away from the Bush-era bully tactics and agreed that the United States cannot just “drop” Afghanistan. According to Robertson, the United States should still provide support to forces in Afghanistan through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the UN. In disagreement with Ziganti’s view on drones, though, Robertson discussed how ground troops also cause civilian casualties, saying that the President believes drones keep the men and women who protect America out of harm’s way.

Wrapping up the closing statements, Breland started off by saying that he believes Obama is only continuing bully tactics and that Romney will bring fresh ideas. According to Breland, cutting military spending is not an option at the moment and the United States needs to stay the course by focusing on world view and the economy.


Business in America

After the discussion of foreign relations, the debate shifted to focus on economic issues, under the Business in America theme. The first question examined the topic of outsourcing and whether the practice can be beneficial, since it leads to cheaper goods and services.

Speaking first, before answering the question, Breland took a moment to rebut the idea that Romney is “the chief of outsourcing,” and noted that when Romney headed Bain Capital, a private equity management firm, he “brought companies back to life.”

Breland emphasized that globalization in business is a reality that “isn’t changing anytime soon.” In order to compete with businesses in other countries, Breland says that America needs to take on “the unfair players in the game” by imposing a tariff on currency manipulators, such as China, to even the playing field.

Ziganti was against such a tax, believing that a tariff on Chinese goods would only result in heightened tensions between American and Chinese diplomacy and in higher prices for consumer goods. According to the Libertarian representative, outsourcing is not “as big of an issue as it may seem,” since the practice results in shipping jobs for Americans and headquarter positions are still located in the states. He focused instead on how an increase in outsourcing is a reflection of America’s failed economic policy.

“America is not competitive in the world market because of the burdensome bureaucratic process businesses must go through,” Ziganti said. “Outsourcing is not something the government does; it is something businesses do because they realize they have a better chance of succeeding overseas.”

Of the three, Robertson talked the least about his party’s economic philosophy, choosing to focus on the president’s accomplishments during his first term. Robertson claimed that President Obama’s cutting of the George W. Bush administration’s tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas has created incentives for companies to move jobs back to the United States.

“What we were seeing before President Obama took office was that the government was essentially saying ‘good job for sending jobs away from here’,” Robertson said.

Robertson also noted that the President has brought back 459,000 manufacturing jobs, partly through the signing of the American Jobs Act.

The debate then moved onto the subject of business regulation and whether measures such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act were a hindrance or an asset to the United States.

Holding the floor was Robertson, who called regulation a necessity, since it maintains the safety of goods and helps rein in pollution.

This view was not held by the two other debaters, though. Both Breland and Ziganti called regulatory measures a hindrance to economics, with Ziganti saying that regulations “prevent businesses from doing business.”

In the closing statements for this portion of the debate, Breland focused on how “unfriendly” North America’s business climate is, due to America having the world’s highest corporate tax rate. He also stressed creating a partnership between North American countries to help bring jobs back and striving for energy independence through measures such as the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed oil pipeline system that would transport crude oil from American reserves in Nebraska and Canadian reserves in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas.

Ziganti emphasized the importance of free trade and allowing the “markets to work by themselves.” He also promoted eliminating the corporate tax, saying that doing so would create 12 million new jobs.

“We need to incentivize business to do business,” Ziganti said, “not penalize it for doing well.”

The YAL representative also supported the elimination of a minimum wage, citing that 79 percent of all economists say it is a hindrance to job creation.

“Corporations, to satisfy their customers, will make the best products. We can compete without all this business and environmental regulation,” Ziganti said.

Robertson began his closing statement by refuting the views of the Republicans and Libertarians, arguing that since a business’s sole purpose is to make money, regulations such as a minimum wage are necessary to protect workers. He then discussed the president’s signing of 18 bills to help small businesses, and planned tax cuts for 97 percent of such businesses.

Finally, Robertson acknowledged that the Keystone pipeline would create jobs, but argued that the pipeline’s creation “would do an insurmountable amount of harm to the environment.”


Working in America

Staying in the economic realm, the debate then transitioned into the Working in America portion.

The first question asked for the debaters’ opinions about how to reform Social Security to make the program more sustainable, while minimizing the impact on those who rely on it.

Breland called for a “fundamental overhaul” of the system. He said that Romney supports a plan in which Social Security is unchanged for those already 55 and older, but for everyone younger, a voucher system should be implemented to allow individuals to make their own decisions and control their own money.

“The government is not very good at investments, so let’s privatize Social Security, make it easier for people to use,” Breland said.

Ziganti supported the Republican’s idea, albeit with more of an extreme stance, saying to keep the program for those already on it, but completely eliminate Social Security for those under 55 because the program’s problems are insoluble.

Robertson admitted that there were major problems with Social Security, but was against the voucher system, believing that only the rich benefit, since they live longer due to access to better health care. Instead, Robertson said that closing tax loopholes exploited by the upper class would help make Social Security more sustainable. He also believed that the issue should be further examined by committees in the House and Senate.

When the subject of how unemployment and underemployment could be remedied was approached, the debaters disagreed on the accuracy of the statistic that the unemployment rate is at 7.8 percent. Both Ziganti and Breland believed that this number was low and that more Americans would like to work, but have given up looking for it. Robertson responded by saying that “you can go out and say that 7.8 percent is not accurate, but then you’re denying a fact.”

Ziganti believed that the stimulus and bailouts were both failed measures, and that business taxes need to be eliminated to stimulate growth. He also promoted a revision of the tax code for more simplistic measures.

Again, Robertson focused on what Obama has accomplished during his term, citing the 459,000 manufacturing jobs created. He also noted that the tax system’s loopholes need to be eliminated.

Breland reiterated that America needs to grow jobs by cracking down on “rule-breakers” like China.


Higher Education in America

Moving into the next section, Hoffman began with a question regarding the government’s role in higher education. Ziganti believes that the government should not have a role in education, stating that scores have fallen in recent years and the United States is becoming less competitive, even though educational funding has increased. He believes that the nation should get rid of the Department of Education, leaving education in the hands of local governments and allowing parents to control the schooling of their own children.

Robertson partially agreed with Ziganti, stating that local governments understand their “area” better and that education should be left up to state governments.

“Education is the key for success. Obama understands we shouldn’t outsource education to private enterprise and that we should allow everyone a chance to be successful,” Robertson said. “Obama won’t capitalize student debt, assuring that college graduates won’t be burdened with debt.”

Breland disagreed with Robertson, stating that the president has increased regulation on other education, burdening schools with regulations. According to Breland, Romney will let students choose their schools and make it easier to get an education.

After the discussion of government’s role in education, the debate moved on to examining the fairness of affirmative action.

“Affirmative action, with the assistance of Pell grants, helps those who grow up in less prosperous areas,” said Robertson. “Obama has doubled Pell grants in order to make sure everyone has a fair shot at education. These programs help to eliminate the race between genders, races, etc. and I believe that affirmative action is the most vital piece of government’s role in education.”

Breland, on the contrary, believes that both Pell grants and affirmative action are remedial types of devices, stating that affirmative action is doing more harm than good for the nation. Pell grants, according to Breland, aren’t necessarily a bad thing; they’re just spending too much money at this point in time.

Agreeing with Breland in regards to affirmative action, Ziganti brought up how, in terms of the constitution, it is illegal for the federal government to be in education. He also discussed the downside of Pell grants and affirmative action.

“Affirmative action tries to get people who were not as likely to get into college into college. This goes against an idea that Libertarians hold near and dear,” said Ziganti. “Getting into college should be based off qualifications. No one should be able to say that a student is more valuable because they have less of a chance. We need to scrap affirmative action and get government out of education completely.”

Hoffman then continued the section’s conversation with a question about inflation rates for colleges and whether the government should regulate costs of higher education.

“The inflation rate has gone up everywhere, not just in education. This has to do with the fact that the federal government is getting involved in things it doesn’t need to get involved in,” Breland said. “We need to cut down on programs that spend too much money and aren’t working and instead make it easier for students to get to college and pay it off.”

Ziganti stated that inflation is a problem the United States has to look at by itself. According to Ziganti, college simply costs too much and the fact that colleges are forced to follow programs that the government puts in place isn’t fair.

Disagreeing with Ziganti, Robertson discussed how regulation can take away from wasteful spending like the Affordable Care Act.

Moving on to closing statements, Ziganti chose to discuss how regulation causes wasteful spending in education. According to Ziganti, the government should not be debating affirmative action; they should be stopping it and instead putting education back in the hands of local government and parents.

Robertson brought up how Romney suggested that students should ask their parents for money for college, instead of taking out loans. Disagreeing with Romney and moving on, Robertson stated that affirmative action should work based on income, not race.

Ending the discussion of higher education, Breland talked about how regulation doesn’t find wasteful spending; it actually increases it. Breland also mentioned his belief that government does have an interest in regulating education, saying that the nation wants an educated class to vote.

“The government should eliminate or cut down on federal funding for education programs,” Breland said.


CWRU Speaks

Combing through questions submitted via twitter, The Observer’s editorial board selected two topics for the debaters to discuss. The first question examined which policies each representative believes are needed to end child poverty.

“The war on poverty has failed,” Ziganti said. “Working-age children have a very high unemployment rate. We need to change the welfare system and promote a negative income tax.”

Taking a different focus, Robertson discussed education’s impact on children in poverty.

“Education is key in this situation. People who are in poverty have access to poorer education. Obama wants to make sure these systems will be lifted up so children can raise themselves up into the middle class,” said Robertson. “Currently, unemployed parents are taking jobs that kids used to have. We need to get those jobs back to kids so they can support their families, as well.”

Breland agreed with Ziganti that the war on poverty has failed and agreed with Robertson that education is the key.

“We don’t increase education by dumbing down better institutions to make worse ones look better, which is what the president has done,” said Breland. “We need to implement the school choice and voucher systems and give people the choice to pick where they get an education.”

Breland closed by saying that the United States also needs to make it easier for people out of work to get back on their feet and that the government needs to reform welfare programs so there is a work requirement or a limit of nine months a person can participate in the program.

The final question of the debate discussed the roles of Congress in social issues, specifically abortion and gay rights.

Breland’s statement was short and deviated markedly from typical Republican policy. Breland stated that the states should have the right to decide on social issues and Congress shouldn’t be regulating them, stopping just short of endorsing a specific stance on the social issues in question.

Ziganti agreed with Breland, saying that the government is overstepping bounds by regulating social issues.

Lastly, Robertson closed the question by discussing equality.

“Everyone is equal regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation,” said Robertson. “Obama is moving in the right direction; he is against the Defense of Marriage Act and has already repealed Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Old white men should not be making decisions for women; everyone should be able to do with their body as they choose.”

The section concluded with closing statements from all three representatives.

Breland stated that education should be run by states and local government, not the federal government, and that the government should regulate less and let state governments run more independently.

Ziganti agreed by saying that federal government should not touch social issues. He also argued that the United States should reduce the size of government and its role in education and poverty.

Speaking last, Robertson brought up how the voucher system for schools would pit private schools against each other and take money from the government and put it in the pockets of corporations.


Closing statements

After two hours of debate, the discussion wrapped up with closing statements from each representative.

“Everyone deserves a shot, not just the rich,” Robertson said. “Remember, Obama got us out of Iraq, is getting us out of Afghanistan, and got bin Laden.”

Ziganti discussed how the government is overstepping its boundaries, stating that in regards to foreign policy, the United States needs to stop infringing on other countries’ domestic matters. He closed by saying that the government needs to decrease spending around the world.

Breland ended the evening by stating that “competition decreases cost to consumers.” According to Breland, Romney’s five-point plan is the best way to put the nation back on its feet.

When asked about the debate, Marilyn Sanders Mobley, the vice president of the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity and a professor of English, said, “Diversity of thought, perspectives, and approaches is possibly the final frontier of diversity, albeit seldom acknowledged, as are compositional dimensions of diversity such as gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental and physical disability.”

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About the Contributor
Mike McKenna
Mike McKenna, Executive Editor
Mike McKenna is a senior biology and psychology student currently serving as The Observer's Executive Editor, after spending last year in the Director of Print position. Mike served his sophomore year and the end of his freshman year as the News Editor. Prior to bringing campus happenings to the CWRU community, Mike held a myriad of positions, including Asst. News Editor, Sports Layout Editor, and Research and Innovations Reporter. In addition to his newspaper duties, Mike is an active member of the CWRU Labre Homeless Outreach Ministry Program and the Newman Catholic Campus Student Association. A sports fanatic, Mike is, albeit somewhat unfortunately, a huge Chicago Cubs fan, and despite hailing from the suburbs of Chicago, an avid Packer-backer. You can reach Mike at

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