Democratic presidential candidates took the stage for their first televised debate Wednesday night in Miami, and for part of the two hours, focused on the millions of Americans who have not been enriched by stock market highs and an economy not boosting all.
Right off the bat, the 10 candidates weighed in one of the central issues in the U.S. – income inequality; 10% of the wealthiest households in the U.S. own 60% of the wealth. They also revealed their disagreements over how the health care system should be set up.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota was the first to call out President Trump by name at the debate. “We know that not everyone is sharing in this prosperity,” she said. “And Donald Trump just sits in the White House and gloats about what’s going on, when you have so many people that are having trouble affording college and having trouble affording their premiums.”
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has advocated for the breakup of big corporations like Amazon, Google, and Apple, blamed a flawed structural system for income inequality.
“Who is this economy really working for? It's doing great for a thinner and thinner slice at the top,” Warren said. “It's doing great for giant drug companies. It's just not doing great for people who are trying to get a prescription filled.”
She went on: “When you've got a government, when you've got an economy that does great for those with money and isn't doing great for everyone else, that is corruption, pure and simple,” and advocated for “structural change in our government, in our economy, and in our country.”
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey pointed out that key economic indicators that economists use to measure the strength of the economy such as GDP falls short of acknowledging the financial challenges of everyday Americans. He highlighted the struggles faced by the African-American community.
“I live in a low-income black and brown community. I see every single day that this economy is not working for average Americans,” Booker said. “The indicators that are being used, from GDP to Wall Street’s rankings, is not helping people in my community. It is about time that we have an economy that works for everybody, not just the wealthiest in our nation.”
Beto O’Rourke, former Texas congressman, criticized Trump’s signature 2017 tax cuts and advocated for higher corporate taxes.
“Right now, we have a system that favors those who can pay for access and outcomes,” he said. “That's how you explain an economy that is rigged to corporations and to the very wealthiest. A $2 trillion tax cut that favored corporations while they were sitting on record piles of cash, and the very wealthiest in this country at a time of historic wealth inequality.” O’Rourke said he would raise the corporate tax rate to 28%.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio who is advocating for a 70 percent tax rate on the wealthy pointed out that there’s plenty of money in America, but that according to him, it’s just in the wrong hands.
Former Maryland Congressman John Delaney attempted to differentiate himself from other candidates on stage and pointed to his experience of creating jobs as an entrepreneur. He pushed for raising the minimum wage. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee advocated for more jobs in green energy, saying climate change would be his top priority.
The second debate Thursday night will feature 10 more Democratic candidates.
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