Health care, the environment and the economy were among the issues that got top billing Wednesday when the running mates of President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden – U. S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, respectively – faced off at their sole debate.
WTTW News got feedback from community leaders and stakeholders about the policy promises Republican Pence and Democrat Harris made from their plexiglass-protected desks.
Pence called Obamacare a “disaster.” The Trump administration’s trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Harris warned preexisting conditions and younger adults on their parents’ insurance that “they’re (Trump and Pence) coming for you.”
As a vice president with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Nadeen Israel says she was disappointed – but not surprised – to hear Pence attacking the ACA.
But she wishes she would have heard more detail from both campaigns about their plans.
“Because I think it’s important. While the Affordable Care Act took a big chunk of the apple when thinking about access to care and coverage, there are still millions of folks that don’t have access to health care because of affordability issues and because of other issues – holes that were left open in the Affordable Care Act,” Israel said. “So we need to build on it, move towards a path … towards universal coverage.”
While he wants to broaden government-backed insurance, Biden does not back a single-payer, or Medicare for All, system favored by some progressives.
President of the IlLinois Manufacturers’ Association Mark Denzeler said more than 90% of manufacturers provide health coverage to their employees, and they want to keep it that way.
“There’s a lot of concern about going to a government-run system. If you talk to employees, you talk to the average person, they’ve very happy with their employer-provided health care so we need to continue making sure that option’s available,” he said.
When asked about the threat of climate change, Pence begrudged “climate alarmists” and said the country does not need a Green New Deal along the lines of what Harris backs.
Harris accused her opponent of denying science.
While Biden has said he will not ban fracking, the Biden-Harris ticket’s goal is to transition the country to zero net emissions by 2050.
Denzler said politicians should not make promises they can’t keep.
“Having goals about reducing carbon fuels, for example, or having zero carbon emissions by a certain date are certainly laudable goals but if we don’t have the technology,” that it raises concerns about cost, he said. “What is a manufacturer willing to pay for energy? What is the family at home struggling to survive today, are they willing to pay 20% or 25% or 50% more for in energy for some of those reduced emissions?”
Denzler said hydraulic fracking is responsible for a renaissance in manufacturing in the U.S.
Hyde Park resident Mila K. Marshall, who is part of the group Environmentalists of Color, said the energy versus the environment tradeoff needs to be reframed.
Energy jobs may be great, she said, but economic costs should also factor in that how the extraction of energy can harm, and even sicken, the communities that host those jobs — and often those communities are were Black and Brown people reside.
Marshall favors the Biden ticket’s environmental platform because she said it sets out a “clear plan for a clean energy future. One that is inclusive of environmental racism and harm done to people of color.” But she said whichever team wins the White House, the next administration cannot continue the politics and practices of today.
“Corporations aren’t people but they should not have protection to cause harm to our air, land and water and woo us and seduce us with employment, receive tax credits and then leave our air land and water devastated to clean up while being sick,” Marshall said. “Any president that gets elected should one, have a desire to use science to help educate the public on what the realities are of the extraction of energy.”
For voters wondering how their pocket books will be impacted by who sits in the Oval Office, economist Erica York with the Tax Foundation says the Trump campaign has not provided a clear plan.
“It’s less clear form the debate last night what changes President Trump would make. We saw a defense of the tax cut that has already passed. We also interestingly saw a defense of the tariffs that he’s implemented, which are actually a form of a tax increase,” York said. “What we heard from Sen. Kamala Harris was a reiteration that Biden is only envisioning higher taxes on high-income earners and businesses.”
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky