Last night (9/01/10) California got its first—and only—scheduled chance to see its 2010 Senatorial candidates square off in a debate. Incumbent Barbara Boxer, seeking a fourth term as the Junior Senator from California, met her Republican opponent and harsh critic, millionaire Carly Fiorina at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. It was our first, and likely our last, opportunity to compare the two candidates’ positions on the issues that will matter most to Californians now, in these deeply turbulent economic times, and well into the future.
The race for the coveted Senate seat was hardly settled, but one thing was clear: There is precious little agreement between the two candidates. It was also clear that one candidate was polished and prepared to tackle the issues, while the other was long on rhetoric and short on solutions to our state’s and nation’s problems. The debate certainly demonstrated that the candidates have sharply divergent ideas on how to improve California’s plight.
Fiorina opened the debate by immediately blaming Boxer for our national debt and the state’s unemployment figures, which are disturbingly high. However, throughout the night, Fiorina failed to delineate just exactly what she would do, what she would support other than more tax cuts for the wealthy, that would improve the California economy and bring more jobs to the state. She vilified Boxer for not supporting tax cuts for small businesses, when in fact, as Boxer pointed out, that’s exactly what she supported, and what was included in the stimulus bill that she supported.
Fiorina, Boxer said, opposed the bills in the Senate that would provide tax breaks for small businesses. And she opposed the jobs bill that saved the jobs of the 16,500 teachers in California who, because of severe budget cuts, had received their “pink slips” in the mail. “She called the bill to save teachers’ jobs ‘disgraceful,’” criticized Boxer.
While Fiorina touted tax break after tax break after tax break, Boxer countered that she had stopped tax breaks for companies that shipped jobs overseas, and supported giving tax breaks to small businesses who hire new employees, specifically pointing to the HIRE (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment) Act, which Fiornia opposed. The HIRE Act includes tax incentives and credits, social security exemptions, and other incentives to encourage businesses to hire more workers.
The most contentious issue of the night was Fiorina’s record while serving as the CEO of Hewlett Packard. Fiorina was angered that “a great American company like HP” was being dragged into this debate, and criticized Boxer for using it as a “political football.” The trouble is that Fiorina’s entire campaign platform and the credentials she brandishes as her qualifications for office are based solely on her record at HP. The fact that as CEO, Fiorina shipped 30,000 HP jobs overseas became one of the key points of the evening.
The debate format called for pre-recorded questions submitted from the general public to be used. One such questioner was a retired Hewlett Packard employee who worked at the company during Fiorina’s tenure. He questioned Fiorina on her record of sending jobs to China, and wanted to know what her plans were to bring jobs back to California.
Fiorina’s responded saying “Any job can go anywhere.” And she’s right. But that doesn’t mean that businesses should be so eager to send those jobs elsewhere.
California, Fiorina says, is seeing increased unemployment because we are “destroying jobs.” Her solutions included taking the example of China, Texas, and Brazil, who all offer business tax credits. She called for a two year payroll tax holiday for businesses who hire new employees.
She lamented that the United States currently ranks 17th in the world in innovation, and supports providing incentives for research and development. She did not, however, provide any details on what kinds of incentives she would like to see, other than tax cuts.
Boxer expressed her support for tax breaks for small businesses, but prefers a more targeted approach: The idea is to close tax loopholes and make sure that those incentives are indeed going to companies that are working to create jobs at home and are putting those tax breaks to use locally, and to provide tax relief for specific performance. The stimulus bills she supported in the Senate do just that, she says.
On the issue of gay marriage, it was pointed out that gay couples are denied 1000 federal rights that are afforded to traditional married couples. Fiorina was asked if gay couples should receive the same rights: “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Boxer: “The only way to get equal rights is through marriage equality.”
On Prop 8, Fiorina was critical of the recent court decision against it. “The voters were clear on Prop 8,” she said, lamenting that the decision of the voters was “overturned by a single judge.” Boxer asserted that the courts are often called upon to decide the constitutionality of voter enacted decisions, and this case is no different.
Immigration reform, said Boxer, is an economic issue, pointing to a USC study that determined that many of our economic woes are tied to our lack of a comprehensive immigration policy. Fiorina, said Boxer, calls comprehensive immigration reform “a distraction.” And while she opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants, Fiorina says she does support the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to young people who attend college or serve in the military.
On abortion, Boxer may have struck the most lethal blow of the debate, pointing out that if Fiorina’s views prevailed, suddenly many women and doctors would be considered criminals. She also criticized the hypocrisy of the Republican stance, pointing to the mantra of keeping government out of our personal lives, yet their stand on abortion necessarily requires the restriction of personal choice.
The choice in November, in my mind, comes down to a rather simple choice: An anti-government candidate who supports fewer regulations for businesses and prefers that we do nothing to combat global warming (“California acting alone will have no effect”), whose platform is centered around big corporations and billionaires, or a candidate who seeks responsible business practices, seeks to promote California as a leader in clean energy technology, and whose platform is based more on people rather than corporate interests.
To watch the entire hour long debate, click here.