College Reps, Dems debate issues

By Liz Ratto

The Political Science Student Association hosted a second heated debate last night between the Northeastern Republicans and the Northeastern Democrats, tackling some of the foremost current political controversies.

Students representing both parties argued their stances on energy, healthcare, National Security Agency (NSA) spying, the war in Iraq, financial aid for higher education and parental notification of minors seeking abortions.

The first debate, concerning the United States’ dependence on petroleum, specifically foreign oil, pitted democrat Sonya Kovacic against president of the Northeastern University College Republicans, Curtis Bergh. Kovacic cited the United States’ dependence on oil as not only an environmental threat, but also one of national security, and accused the Bush administration of being “all talk and no action.”

Kovacic argued that the government must focus on promoting conservation of resources and funding new technologies to help develop adequate alternatives to petroleum in the future. She also stressed that the government should seek to spend an equal amount to the billions of dollars it spends on the military each year on such research and development projects.

Bergh noted that the over-consumption of oil by the heavily populated countries of India and China makes the Advanced Energy Initiative, outlined in the president’s recent State of the Union address, potentially effective. The initiative provides more funding for developing alternative energy sources, and Bergh contended that it is innovation, not conservation, that will prevent a major energy crisis.

The next order of business was the status of healthcare in the United States, with democrat Joshua Robin arguing for an expansion in coverage for all Americans, and Jamie Waller supporting the Bush administration’s establishing of Health Savings Accounts, what he called a “fundamental first step” in improving the system.

Robin stressed the need for better preventative healthcare and more research to identify the best procedures and treatments, what he said will help to bring down the cost of healthcare in the long run.

Waller said the establishment of Health Savings Accounts will allow people who can afford to put portions of their income into these funds to be well provided for in their future healthcare needs, taking some of the strain off of the system and taxpayers.

The issue of NSA wiretapping without a warrant has been hotly debated lately, and democrat Burke Campbell contended that “it has weakened the democratic process.” His opponent on the subject, republican Dave Moberg, stated that it is “completely within the president’s inherent constitutional authority,” to take steps to prevent international terrorism, calling the criticism of the illegal wiretapping “another political stunt by democrats to try to embarrass the president.”

The war in Iraq, one of the more passionate of the debate subjects, had Brian Caron arguing for the Republicans that “the United States must stay the course in Iraq,” finishing what it started until a successful nation can flourish. He said a withdrawal of troops would only make the U.S. look weak and let down those who supported American interference.

Mike Pannone spoke ardently for the Democratic side that there is a perpetuation of violence in Iraq that will only end with U.S. withdrawal from the region. He spoke of what he referred to as the “arrogance of America” and called for complete withdrawal by July 2007 if there isn’t major progress made by this summer, a statement that drew both cheers and snickers from the audience.

The debaters next tackled financial aid, an issue that hit close to home for their audience. Democrat Jon Kent said “the economics of college are out of control,” with tuition at many schools skyrocketing and $12.7 billion being cut from the 2007 financial aid budget, noting that wealthy students have a far greater graduation rate than students in poorer economic brackets.

Bergh contended that the Bush administration has provided more money in Pell Grants than any other administration in history and that the problem is not inadequate funding by the government, but rather a need to investigate why some colleges are raising tuition above the rate of inflation.

Lastly, the students debated parental notification for minors seeking abortions. Republican Shandra Burch argued that “notifying parents or guardians preserves the sanctity of families and provides a social safety net” for young girls faced with this decision.

Democrat Vanessa Barton argued that the safety of a minor in an abusive home could be threatened because of a revelation like this and that involuntarily involving parents could potentially make the process even more painful and humiliating for girls.

The debate was fast-paced and tightly organized, with the representatives from each side providing information and research to support their stances. Bergh said, “Our last debate in the fall was definitely well attended, but tonight both sides were very well prepared.”

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