Four out of Five—Something to Write Home About

Presidential candidates at last night’s first Democratic debate hit on four of the five issue areas we hoped would either be included in the moderator’s direct questions or come up in discussion or rebuttals.

  • Close the “opportunity gap” and create more opportunity to succeed for children living in poverty and children of color
  • Promote family-friendly workplace policies, so parents can earn a living and care for their families
  • Give every child a strong start with high-quality pre-school, and expand opportunity by making college more affordable
  • Make sure every child is insured and has access to high-quality medical care
  • Make sure every child is safe from violence in his or her home and community.

And while each candidate was not asked every question, it was clear that the five on stage— former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb—had opinions about inequality (aka the opportunity gap), family-friendly workplace policies, making college affordable and health-care for all. Early learning was injected by Clinton during her opening remarks, the question about race, and again during questions about her e-mails to which she responded with a list of things she’d rather be talking about – the things that “really matter to the American people.”

Moderator Anderson Cooper and fellow CNN questioners Dana Bash and Juan Carlos Lopez, with the help of a few questions on video, asked about race, income inequality, guns, college affordability, legalizing marijuana, immigration, health care, climate change, Hillary’s e-mails, foreign policy (including Putin, Assad, ISIS, Afghanistan, Libya,

The candidates, via

Here’s a brief run-down of what the candidates had to say about the issues affecting kids and working families. It reflects the ability of the note-taker’s vigilance to get all comments, thus there could well be holes in the narrative.

Income Inequality:

Clinton said she had a five-point economic plan to allow all Americans to “make the most of their God-given potential.” She also said she was fighting for kids, women and families. O’Malley discussed raising the minimum wage to a living wage and reinstating depression-era banking laws to avoid the fall-out of the recent recession. In his opening remarks, he said that opportunity must be available to all children and that we need to look for ways to even the odds, to find the ways for each child to live up to his or her potential. Sanders too talked about raising the minimum wage, achieving pay equity, and making every public university tuition free, adding that he wanted Wall Street to help kids go to college. Chafee noted in his opening statement that he wants to “close the gap between the haves and the have-nots.”

College Affordability:

When asked whether or not tax-payers should pick up the tab to send even children from wealthy homes to college, Sanders replied, “every kid should have a college education,” noting that today it is equivalent to what a high-school education was decades ago. He also said that the wealthy would be paying more in taxes if he were to become president. Clinton said she would refinance debt to a low-interest rate. She also said that anyone should be able to enjoy free tuition at a public college but should sign a compact agreeing to work 10 hours a week while attending school. She further noted that colleges should lower their costs.

Health Care:

A discussion of health care arose in response to a question on immigration. Clinton wants to make sure every child gets health care and open up the opportunity for immigrants to buy into the exchanges. Webb said he would “not have a problem with ‘undocumenteds’ getting Obama care.”

Mandated Paid Family Leave:

Specifically, the candidates were asked what they would say to the small business owner that many feel would be hurt by such a policy. Clinton responded, “We must join the rest of the advanced world,” and that she would make the wealthy pay for it. She insisted that we can design and pay for a system that doesn’t hurt small business. Sanders concurred, noting that all other major countries do this and that it is an embarrassment for the U.S. that it doesn’t. O’Malley noted that as governor of Maryland he had expanded family leave, saying “women should not be penalized by having to drop out of the workforce.

It will be interesting to see what all candidates are saying about issues affecting America’s kids and working families in future debates and as they campaign across the country. If you’re able to attend an event, remember to ask a question about one or more of the five issue areas above. Perhaps they’ll be fleshing out their plans and can give more detailed accounts of their plans.