Debaters from the Tufts Democrats, Tufts Republicans and Tufts Young Democratic Socialists of America answered questions on current political topics in the ASEAN auditorium on Oct. 26. During the hour-long event, students from each group discussed national policies on health care and student debt in the “Triple Threat Debate” hosted by Tufts Cooperation and Innovation in Citizenship.
The first question posed to the first panel of three debaters was whether or not they believed health care was a fundamental right. First-year Alex Wahl answered for the Tufts Democrats.
“The Tufts Democrats do believe, and we are not afraid to say, that health care is a fundamental human right,” Wahl said, calling disparities in health care access and coverage “a dystopian idea that we morally reject.”
“If the other parties at the table cannot say definitively and without qualification that health care is a fundamental human right, then there is just a fundamental difference here,” Wahl said.
Junior Matt Lohmann from Tufts YDSA argued for a single-payer health care system.
“Health care is a fundamental human right,” Lohmann said. “We have the ability to cure most people, and there is just no good reason why we aren’t, other than for the sake of corporations’ profits.”
Senior Andrew Butcher answered for the Tufts Republicans.
“Switching to a single payer model is certainly a solution,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the best solution, because [the] government is not typically good at these large-scale solutions.”
Butcher added that he doesn’t like the idea of “giving the government the capacity to essentially dictate what a good standard of care is,” citing concerns of congressional Republicans restricting abortion coverage.
The CIVIC moderator of the debate cited estimates that 90% of health outcomes in the United States were resultant of factors unrelated to health care. Debaters were then asked for solutions to improving Americans’ health outcomes beyond insurance.
Democrat Wahl suggested more gun regulation to protect children in schools.
“We need to talk about the things that impact people's health care at the root causes,” Wahl said. “Abortion and access to contraception are two things that we Democrats are laser focused on protecting.”
He believes that being against abortion and access to contraception are two positions “in diametric opposition to the idea of improving health outcomes in America.”
YDSA’s Lohmann answered that not having to deal with “external anxieties” such as climate change, restricted access to abortion and lack of voting rights, “would improve a lot of people's well-being.”
Both Butcher and Lohmann highlighted flaws in the government’s promotion of exercise and diet — specifically noting the political influence over the creation of the food pyramid and the MyPlate model. Lohmann argued for the regulation of the food industry in order to cut preservatives out of Americans’ diets.
The final topic discussed by the first round of debaters was the mental health crisis in the United States and the role the government should play in addressing mental health issues.
Both Wahl and Lohmann pointed to a shortage of well-paid social and mental health workers in the public school system. Wahl linked this issue back to his previous call for firearm regulation.
Wahl said there needs to be a way to “make sure that, if there is somebody who is mentally unstable, their weapons are able to be taken temporarily until the mental health crisis is resolved.”
Butcher agreed that the United States is currently suffering a mental health crisis, saying that the government’s current solutions “aren’t great.” He did not offer a specific plan to combat the crisis.
The second round of debates focused on student loans and debt forgiveness. Tufts YDSA was represented by senior Seth Gordon, the Tufts Democrats were represented by sophomore Spencer Miller and the Tufts Republicans were represented by sophomore Trent Bunker.
YDSA’s Gordon was the first to speak. He called for all student debt to be canceled.
“In 22 countries across the world, free public education is not a dream but a reality,” Gordon said. “Millions of students, just like you and me, go to school every single day, go to college every single day and pay $0.”
Gordon continued, elaborating on the problems with the cost of higher education in America.
“In the U.S., we have a backward system where college is prohibitively expensive for millions of people,” Gordon said. “Ultimately, what we need in this country is free public education, a total forgiveness of all student loans and price caps on private universities to prevent price gouging and runaway debt.”
Miller said that the Tufts Democrats support President Joe Biden’s recent student loan forgiveness plan, in addition to regulating universities themselves.
“We would like to force universities to use a certain percentage of their endowment every year or to cap the amount of money that comes into the university that’s funneled directly into the endowment,” Miller said. “They created this problem by raising tuition, and they’re going to help the federal government solve it.”
Bunker argued firmly against Biden’s loan forgiveness program.
“Pumping this money into the economy will force the public who never went to college … who have already paid off their debt, to pay for the risk taken by these individual borrowers through the hidden tax of inflation,” Bunker said.
Bunker cited models suggesting Biden’s plan will cost over $500 billion over the next ten years.
“However, one solution that the Republican party … has supported is an income repayment scheme, which … prices into the situation the future income prospects and gives these loan companies skin in the game, which they don’t have right now,” Bunker said.