On Oct. 21, I spent a significant chunk of my Sunday night watching a debate between Sam Seder, a progressive talk radio host, and Charlie Kirk, the executive director of Turning Point USA. The guiding question of the debate was “Is President Trump helping the middle class?” Though I already knew the answer to this easy question — “no” — I decided to tune in any way.

I was very much familiar with the two participants prior to the debate. And while things did not go exactly as I expected, I cannot say that I was surprised by what transpired. Kirk was prone to incoherent rambling with outdated talking points sprinkled into stutter-filled diatribes. Seder, on the other hand, took a far more metered-out approach, pointing to specific Trump administration policies that have had catastrophic effects on the middle class.

One specific example of this was when Kirk touted the current administration’s cutting of regulation as advantageous to the middle class. Seder immediately fired back, citing specific environmental regulations that have been cut with projected death tolls in the tens of thousands. Kirk, subsequently, was silent.

Quickly coming to the realization that he was fighting a losing battle, Kirk began the flail. The errand boy of GOP megadonors adopted a new strategy in order to cut his losses: Go, and stay, off topic. In all fairness, this tactic worked quite well for Kirk as he was able to drag Seder into murky waters that, within the intended confines of this debate, were supposed to go uncharted. For a significant stretch, what was supposed to be a debate about the impact of the current administration’s policies on the middle class became an argument over the minutia of banking procedure. Nevertheless, any objective viewer came away with the impression that Seder, though not in peak form, won the exchange handily.

While the actual content of the debate left something to be desired, the timing was absolutely appropriate as it came in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for massive cuts to the two most popular government programs — Social Security and Medicare. This fundamentally anti-democratic move was proposed under the guise of “fiscal responsibility.” Nothing could be more disingenuous.

This is the same party that drastically reduced government revenues by passing a tax cut bill in which 83 percent of the benefits went to the top 1 percent. They coupled this with increases to our already bloated military budget which has become less about national defense and more about lining the pockets of corrupt, evil war profiteers. This abuse of the American taxpayer is cronyism marketed as patriotism.

Unsurprisingly, the deficit has ballooned to $779 billion and is set to surpass $1 trillion by 2019. Rather than making the rich pay their fair share in taxes or attacking military waste (the Department of Defense spent $1.5 trillion on a fighter jet that doesn’t work), they have decided to continue their crusade to destroy the programs Americans hold dearest. They want to further eviscerate an already measly welfare state.

The Republican economic plan gives to the rich by taking away from the rest of us. This is not deficit hawkishness. It’s economic elitism. A 62-percent majority of Americans see the GOP as the party of the rich — this is why.

If one is concerned about the deficit and national debt, you should take a good, hard look at Medicare. There are changes in the program that could be made that would save the federal government a lot of money. The key to saving money with Medicare is to expand it.

According to a recent study funded by the Koch brothers, a “Medicare for all” system would save the American people $2 trillion over a 10 year period. Moreover, a single-payer health care system would get rid of the greatest national embarrassment of all: The fact that people are dying in the streets of the richest country on Earth due to a lack of ability to pay for astronomically expensive healthcare.

As for Social Security, to cut this program would constitute theft. People have been paying into the system their whole lives. To take what they are rightfully entitled to from them would be immoral.

In summation, the latest push by the Republicans to gut social services has nothing to do with wanting to be “fiscally responsible.” It is just another example of politicians acting as slaves to the plutocracy rather than standing up for what is right. Current government policy has been working against working and middle-class Americans — and things might just get a lot worse.

I urge you to keep all of this in mind when you head to the polls this November. Every election is a fight for the soul of a nation.  Fifty-eight percent of Americans believe this country is headed in the wrong direction. Let’s do what we can to try to turn it around.

Elias Khoury can be reached at ekhoury@umich.edu



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