College Democrats and Republicans host debate

By EMILY MCDONALD | April 11, 2019

The Hopkins College Democrats and College Republicans held a debate on April 4. Members of each club presented arguments about the nation’s healthcare system, foreign affairs policies and military spending. President of College Democrats Mikhael Hammer-Bleich and junior Bradley Presson moderated the event. 

Hammer-Bleich and Presson began the debate by giving introductory statements in which they outlined their clubs’ values. Hammer-Bleich emphasized the importance of reducing income inequality in the U.S., especially when it comes to making healthcare affordable. 

“The federal government shouldn’t give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires while the working class is struggling trying to make a living,” he said. “Healthcare should be a right.”

Presson explained that College Republicans are interested in upholding freedom of expression, democracy and a free-market economy.

“It is our hope that this debate tonight can rise above the current vitriolic political climate to discuss solutions to pressing issues for our country,” Presson said. 

Members of both clubs presented their opinions on the U.S. healthcare system. Freshman Hannah Bruckheim, representing the College Democrats, argued for a public option for healthcare. 

“As one of the richest countries in the world, this is not only a sad fact but an embarrassing one, and it leaves us with an important moral question: do people deserve to die because they can’t afford to pay their medical bills?” she said. 

Bruckheim clarified that a public healthcare option would provide insurance for those who cannot afford private insurance but do not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare provides insurance for people 65 or older, while Medicaid provides insurance for people with low incomes. 

Junior Kevin Gianaris, co-president of the College Republicans then argued that privatized insurance will allow for more competition, which will in turn lower insurance costs. This way, he said, everyone will have access to affordable insurance. 

“We can promote more competition and evolve an American system that finally works for everyone, and that people can afford,“ he said.

Gianaris added that a large percentage of people pay for insurance, while only a small number of people benefit from healthcare.

College Democrats programming director William Edmonds argued that everyone should have access to affordable healthcare. 

“There are two paths that most developed countries have taken. It’s a model of healthcare as a privilege or healthcare as a right,” he said.

Edmonds added that offering a government-funded insurance option would reduce healthcare costs by both forcing private insurers to drive down their costs to remain competitive.

Edmonds believes that with a public option, the government would gain authority to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, greatly reducing government spending.

The debate then shifted to the question of military spending. Vice President of College Republicans Rachel Fortinsky argued that the military should be held accountable for their spending. 

She explained that military spending has not increased recently. 

“Military spending is a significant portion of the budget,” she said. “Even though the monetary value has gone up, the percentage of GDP has declined.”

Fortinsky emphasized the importance of increasing military funding.

“If you accept that the U.S. ought to play a role in global foreign affairs and protect democracy... you have to keep up with the innovation and the progressing military of many countries like China and Russia who pose a huge threat to the U.S.,” she said. 

Edmonds believes that the U.S. should prioritize funding for other issues. 

“I’m not saying that we should avoid getting involved in foreign affairs, period,” he said. “We’re in the median on so many social issues. We can’t face climate change. And yet we’re spending most of our military budget on dealing with crises that a lot of the time U.S. military intervention has caused in the first place.”

In an interview with The News-Letter, Gianaris expressed his appreciation for the audience’s participation in the Q&A session.

“The event went very well,” he said. “They were very civil and had good promotion of conversation on campus, which has been very low on this campus.”

Bruckheim said in an interview with The News-Letter that she enjoyed the debate and the opportunity to explore the complicated nuances of political issues. 

“Hopkins has a very liberal or moderate campus, so even people who label themselves as Republicans fall towards that more moderate, left side of it. If anything, it allows us to agree on the baseline issues such as healthcare is a right...it allows us to have a more complicated discussion about how exactly we can go about it,” she said.

Michael Trautman-Rodriguez contributed reporting.

Editor’s Note: News-Letter Staff Writer William Edmonds is the Hopkins Democrats Programming Director. He was not involved in the reporting or editing of this article.

Corrections: The original version of this article misspelled Bradley Presson’s last name as Preston. He was also incorrectly identified as the Co-President of College Republicans. He is not on the College Republicans board.

The article also incorrectly stated that Joseph Klein discussed taxes.

The News-Letter regrets this error.

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