Democratic presidential candidates went head to head Tuesday night in Las Vegas to discuss many political issues facing the U.S. today and in the future. The debate focused on both domestic and foreign questions, but the social issues were central to the discussion and to each candidate’s platform.
As college students, we view social issues from a unique perspective, as they affect us in the present and are more than just a talking point for politicians. Take a second to read up on how the Democratic presidential candidates are confronting the most salient issues facing college students today.
1. Tuition and student loans
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quoted a Nevada college student when she said, “The hardest part of college shouldn’t be paying for it.”
Many of the Democratic presidential candidates agree that college should be more affordable and less burdensome, but each has different tactics of doing so.
Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) proposes free tuition at public colleges and universities, as well as stopping the federal government from making a profit on student loans and slashing student loan interest rates, according to BernieSanders.com.
Secretary Clinton’s New College Compact initiative seeks to lessen the burden of student loans by eliminating the need to borrow for four-year state colleges. She also proposes having students enrolled in the program work 10 hours per week, which Sanders opposes.
Former Governor Martin O’Malley also addressed this issue during the Democratic Presidential Debate, and touted his advances in higher education funding during his time as governor.
O’Malley proposes allowing students to refinance their loans and cap loan payments, he wrote in an op-ed, but his plan is not as comprehensive and laid out as Clinton’s and Sanders’.
2. Job creation and the economy
After graduation, students hope to enter a strong economy with stable job growth. The candidates addressed job creation in the debate, though they had different ideas.
Secretary Clinton wants to reform capital gains taxes and encourage long-term planning by companies to increase skills and wages for workers.
Clinton said she wants to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and clean energy and increasing the federal minimum wage.
“At the center of my campaign is how to raise wages,” Clinton said. “Not just raising the minimum wage, but also ways to encourage companies to share profits.”
Senator Sanders, on his website, promotes making income equal and creating decent-paying jobs in what he considers an unemployment crisis.
“The truth is that for the last 40 years, the great middle class of this country has been disappearing,” Sanders said.
Sanders has pledged to introduce legislation investing $1 trillion to produce at least 13 million good-paying jobs over the next give years for the productivity, efficiency, and safety of our country.
3. Clean energy
Candidates cited clean energy as an avenue for creating jobs in America, but Senator Sanders also named it the greatest threat to our global safety.
“The scientific community is telling us if we do not address the global crisis of climate change, transform our energy system away from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, the planet that we’re going to be leaving our kids and our grandchildren may well not be habitable,” Sanders said.
Governor O’Malley spoke about a plan to transition the U.S. to be 100 percent fossil-fuel-free by 2050.
“Climate change makes cascading threats even worse,” O’Malley said, referencing an interview in which he blames a Syrian drought for the rise of ISIS.
On his website, he articulates a way to move from the current dependence on fossil fuels today while also creating millions of jobs for global stability and growth.
Clinton, who attended the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009 with President Obama, called out to China and India to play a part in reducing climate change and using more clean energy sources, but didn’t detail a comprehensive plan in the debate.