#TalkPoverty at the Last Debate: Monday, October 22

Once again, I’m sharing an email from The Coalition on Human Needs about the Presidential debates. The last debate is coming up on Monday, October 22, and will focus on foreign policy. The moderator is Bob Schieffer (@BobSchieffer). The point the Coalition wants to make about poverty and our national presence is: How can we be competitive in the world when one in five of our generation lives in poverty? According to a U.N. report released this year, the United States has the second-highest child poverty rate among wealthy nations.

In the last debate, candidates addressed issues like pay equity and tax credits, which directly affect child poverty, but we still haven’t heard a question about their comprehensive plans to tackle poverty in America. There is good news, however. This week NPR’s All Things Considered [ref name=”Candidates’ Views on Poverty Get Little Attention”]Candidates’ Views on Poverty Get Little Attention. All Things Considered. NPR. Oct. 15. 2012. Available:http://www.npr.org/2012/10/15/162953753/candidates-views-on-poverty-get-little-attention[/ref] covered the #TalkPoverty campaign; a #TalkPoverty Tweet was featured on the late local news on NBC4 in Washington; and President Obama responded in writing to a letter sent by partners of The Coalition on Human Needs about how he plans to address child poverty if given another term. [ref name=”Obama Breaks Silence on Child Poverty”]Capehart, Jonathan. Obama Breaks Silence on Child Poverty. Oct. 16, 2012. Post Partisan. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/post/obama-breaks-silence-on-child-poverty/2012/10/16/ad72f93e-17d4-11e2-8792-cf5305eddf60_blog.html[/ref]

If you Tweet one thing today, Tweet this:

US child poverty 2nd worst/wealthy nations. @BobSchieffer how will candidates reduce poverty 2 compete #TalkPoverty (Click here to Tweet now. )

Debate Tonight with Candy Crowley

Apparently, ignoring poverty in America is becoming a tradition at the debates. According to Greg Kaufmann, author of This Week in Poverty blog at The Nation Magazine, Thursday night’s debate makes at least six Presidential or Vice Presidential debates, dating back to 2008, without a single question about poverty. (See Greg’s final installment of his five-part #talkpoverty series. [ref name=”#TalkPoverty: After the Debate]#TalkPoverty: After the Debate, More Questions From Families From Obama and Romney. Available: http://www.thenation.com/blog/170423/talkpoverty-after-debate-more-questions-families-obama-and-romney[/ref]) Maybe tonight will end that tradition.

Last Thursday’s debate between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Vice President Joe Biden, was a slight improvement over the first Presidential debate, as poverty was mentioned several times. However, we won’t let them off the hook just yet. They didn’t really #TalkPoverty because they failed to discuss the policies that address it. Tonight’s debate, moderated by CNN’s Candy Crowley will begin at 9 p.m. EST. The Coalition on Human Needs has provided the following sample tweet to send to Candy:

1/5 children in poverty need u2 ask candidates how they’ll reduce poverty in 1st 100days @CrowleyCNN #talkpoverty (Click here to Tweet now. )

The #TalkPoverty campaign is growing. Last week the #TalkPoverty hashtag had an average audience of 650,000 Twitter users. As impressive as that sounds, the Coalition on Human Needs asks, why not make it a million and get poverty the attention it deserves? You can also visit Halfinten.org/talkpoverty; follow @halfinten; and Like the campaign’s Facebook page.

Talk About Poverty at the Vice Presidential Debates

Those working on the Talk About Poverty (#TalkPoverty) campaign are refusing to be discouraged. They are encouraging us to tweet our poverty questions to the moderator of tonight’s vice presidential debate between Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Vice President Joseph Biden. I admit that it seems futile, given the [intlink id=”1172″ type=”post”]secret negotiations[/intlink] behind the scenes, but at least they should be confronted with their duplicity. You never know; this time could be different. The moderator tonight will be Martha Raddatz. Martha has asked that people add the hash tag, #VPDebate, to their tweets. The following are sample tweets provided by The Coalition on Human Needs[ref name=”Coalition on Human Needs”]Coalition on Human Needs. Available: http://www.chn.org/[/ref]

•   #ChildPoverty is highest in 63 years. How can we reduce it in 1st 100 days? @MarthaRaddatz ask candidates 2 #TalkPoverty at #VPDebate

•    1 in 5 children in #poverty. they need @MarthaRaddatz 2 ask candidates how 2 reduce child poverty in 1st 100days #TalkPoverty #VPDebate

You can also “like” the #TalkPoverty Facebook page. The debate is from 9:00-10:30 p.m. tonight, October 11, 2012.

Democrats and Republicans Conspire

You may have noticed there was no mention of the Talk About Poverty (#TalkPoverty) campaign at Wednesday’s presidential debate. Since the debate, many people have commented on the poor job done by moderator Jim Lehrer, not only because he omitted the questions submitted by Talk About Poverty, but because of his all-around dismal showing. However, it seems there is more to the story. It seems the Romney and Obama campaigns secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictated many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This contract covers who gets to participate as well as the topics raised by the moderator, and one of the main goals was to assure there would be no hard questions. Obviously, the moderator would have had to be hand-picked and approved by both parties to assure he would obey the terms of the contract. If you want to see an expanded debate with answers from more candidates, you can go to Democracynow.org, where the original debate is presented with answers from the Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein; and the Justice Party candidate, Rocky Anderson. Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson was not able to attend. Dr. Stein will be included on 37 ballets in November; Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson is ballot-qualified in 48 states; and Rocky Anderson is ballot-qualified in 15 states. If your candidate is not on your ballot you can write in his or her name. Additional candidates are listed here. Please see the debate here..[ref name=”Expanding the Debate Exclusive: Third Party Candidates Break the Sound Barrier as Obama-Romney Spar”] Third Party Candidates Break the Sound Barrier as Obama-Romney Spar. DemocracyNow.org. Oct. 4, 2012. Available: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/4/expanding_the_debate_exclusive_third_party[/ref]

The sabotage of the debates process was explained in a Democracy Now interview with George Farah, founder and Executive Director of Open Debates, and the author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” Below are some of the high points, but you can read the entire interview here.[ref name=”As Obama-Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties”]As Obama-Romney Hold First Debate, Behind the Secret GOP-Dem Effort to Shut Out Third Parties. DemocracyNow.org. Oct. 3, 2012. Available: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/3/ahead_of_first_obama_romney_debate[/ref] 

Political debates used to be sponsored by a non-partisan organization, the League of Women Voters. Beginning in 1980, the League found itself fighting attempts by the Republicans and Democrats to change the format of the debates. The parties’ maneuvering was in flagrant disregard of the will of the voters, but it took place every four years until the League was shut out of the process in 1988…one year after the two parties ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates.” The current sponsor, the Commission on Presidential Debates, is a partisan, private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies. The current co-chairs of the Commission are lobbyists; one represents the gaming industry and the other represents the telecommunications industry.

The Commission on Presidential Debates gets most of its funding from major businesses, Anheuser-Busch being the biggest contributor. Compared to what the League of Women voters had to go through to raise funds for the debates, it is now quite easy to solicit these contributions, because the companies perceive them as soft money donations and a way to influence the political process. There is some good news, however. Farah’s organization has mounted a campaign of its own, in which supporters have written letters and emails demanding that the sponsors withdraw their support of the commission. This year, with the help of other organizations and third parties, they have had some success. Three of the ten sponsors have withdrawn their support. These are BBH, a British advertising agency; YWCA, a nonprofit; and Philips Electronics, a tech giant.

The seven remaining sponsors include three companies: Anheuser-Busch, Southwest Airlines, and the International Bottled Water Association. There are two foundations: The Howard Buffett Foundation (Howard Buffett is on the board of the commission); and the Marjorie Kovler Fund, affiliated with the Kennedy Library. Finally, there are two law firms: Korman, a firm that focuses on specific issues in Washington; and a national security lawyer, Sheldon Cohen.

“This is not the way these ought to be run,” said Farah. “These should be supported by civic groups, nonpartisan organizations with a real focus on the democratic process, and instead they’re subcontracting out our presidential debate process to Anheuser-Busch.”

The Debate: Waiting to Talk about Poverty

In August, Greg Kaufmann at The Nation Magazine started a series called Talk About Poverty (#TalkPoverty). The first four articles profile people who have worked to eradicate hunger, and list the questions they would like to ask Obama and Romney in the first debate. Kaufmann’s most recent article lists 13 of the most pressing questions. [ref name=”#TalkPoverty: Thirteen Questions for the First Presidential Debate”]The Nation Magazine. Available: http://www.thenation.com/blog/170291/talkpoverty-thirteen-questions-first-presidential-debate[/ref] Many individuals and organizations have become involved in this project, including Half in Ten, the Coalition on Human Needs, the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The main point here is that Jim Lehrer is going to have the opportunity to ask these questions in tonight’s debate. After the debate you can tweet your thanks if he asks questions about poverty, or express your disappointment if he fails to do so. You can also join HalfinTen’s campaign to cut hunger in half in ten years at [ref name=”Half in Ten”]http://halfinten.org/[/ref], follow @halfinten, and tweet about the debate using the #TalkPoverty hash tag. Be sure to include Jim Lehrer’s Twitter handle (@NewsHour).