The first Republican presidential debate hosted by a business-themed television network presents an opportunity for debate moderators to closely examine the economic policy positions and records of the GOP field.
On October 28, CNBC will host the third GOP primary debate, which will be split into two parts. The top 10 polling GOP contenders -- Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, John Kasich, and Rand Paul -- will participate in a two-hour primetime debate, while four other GOP candidates -- Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki, and Rick Santorum -- will participate in a debate a few hours earlier. Both debates will be moderated by CNBC anchors Carl Quintanilla and Becky Quick, and CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood.
According to an October 21 CNBC press release, the debate "will focus on the key issues that matter to all voters -- job growth, taxes, technology, retirement and the health of our national economy."
Below are four suggestions for how CNBC's moderators can press the GOP field about the intersections between the economy and: money in politics, climate change, tax cuts for the wealthy, and immigration reform.
The growing crisis of barely-regulated money in politics in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision was brought into stark relief by a recent New York Times report which found that "[j]ust 158 families have provided nearly half the early money for efforts to capture the White House." According to a Media Matters analysis, since March 23, a total of 52 segments on CNBC discussed issues related to money in politics, but campaign finance reform was mentioned just once. CNBC should ask candidates about our country's broken campaign finance system not just because 78 percent of Americans polled favor overturning Citizens United, but also because unlimited campaign contributions help shape negative economic policy outcomes. According to a May 2014 issue brief by the Center for American Progress, campaign contributions and lobbying can significantly increase "rent-seeking," which economists agree "causes a net societal loss that harms the economy." And if CNBC moderators need another reason to ask the candidates about money in politics, they should just look around: the GOP debate will be held at the University of Colorado's Coors Events Center, a venue so-named because of a sizeable contribution made by the Adolph Coors Foundation, an organization involved in funneling dark money to conservative causes.
Here is what recent research suggests: Climate change-fueled wildfires are already straining the budgets of Western states, climate change could reduce the United States' per capita GDP by 36 percent by 2100, and more than $1 trillion worth of property and structures are presently at risk from climate change-fueled sea level rise. The severe economic risks associated with climate change should be more than enough reason for CNBC moderators to question the GOP field about this urgent issue, which could drastically impact businesses of all sizes. Climate change recently became part of the 2016 campaign in a significant way when battleground incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) announced her support for the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, citing the interests of the New Hampshire business community. Ayotte joined a group of major corporations and financial decision makers, including 81 signatories to the American Business Act on Climate Change Pledge, mega food companies such as General Mills, Kellogg Company, Mars, Inc., and Nestle USA, leading banking institutions including Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo, and many other major corporations. Asking the GOP field about the economic consequences of climate change would also be an opportunity for the network to improve its coverage of the issue. According to a Media Matters analysis of the first nine months of 2013, more than half of CNBC's coverage of the issue included climate science denial.
Throughout the 2016 presidential primary campaign, GOP candidates have routinely pitched their tax plans as "populist," despite the fact that each and every proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy. And media have fallen for the claim time and time again. When Donald Trump announced his plan on September 28, Politico claimed in a headline that the billionaire businessman planned to "hike taxes on the wealthy" -- even though the plan calls for cutting the top marginal tax rate, cutting the corporate income tax rate, and eliminating the estate tax. The media outlet had relied solely on Trump's false characterization of his plan to write that headline. In an October 14 article in The New York Times, debate co-moderator Harwood criticized several candidates for describing themselves in populist terms but "sh[ying] away from economic populism," while crafting tax policies that "deliver disproportionate gains to the most affluent." During the debate, Harwood should continue to hold the candidates to this same standard, pushing them to accurately explain what their tax reform plans do and who they benefit.
Falsehoods about immigration routinely begin as conservative media claims before becoming talking points used by GOP presidential candidates. CNBC should be on the lookout for several common false claims about immigration and the economy, and be prepared to factcheck fabricated statistics on the issue. Conservative media often claim that deporting undocumented immigrants would help the economy by saving taxpayers money. In one variation of that claim published by Breitbart News, each deported household would save taxpayers $700,000. In fact, the opposite is true -- the cost of deporting longstanding undocumented immigrants in the United States would cost more than $114 billion, and according to a report from Center for American Progress, the "cost to the overall economy would likely be far more." Other claims to look out for include: false connections between immigration and African-American unemployment rates; the erroneous claim that immigration decreases American wages and increases unemployment; and the baseless argument that immigrant children are straining American school systems and driving up taxes.
Sean Hannity echoed a previously debunked statistic to claim that 38 percent of all murder convictions in some states are committed by undocumented immigrants. The claim appears to have originated on the conservative news site Breitbart.com, and has been debunked by PolitiFact for relying on a flawed study from the conservative Center for Security Policy.
Fox News is infuriated that Democrats voted down the Stop Sanctuary Cities Act, which contained a provision resembling Bill O'Reilly's "Kate's Law," a proposal to impose a mandatory minimum prison sentence on undocumented immigrants attempting to re-enter the country after deportation. With the support of his Fox News colleagues, O'Reilly fiercely criticized the defeat of the bill, calling the Democrats who voted against it "villains" and threatening to "come after" Republican Senators who voted alongside them.
The New York Times editorial board argued in favor of retiring the term "alien" from immigration legislation and official federal documents, explaining that there is "no compelling reason to keep a hostile term in the law that sets out how immigrants are welcomed into the country."
Although many style guides used by media organizations discourage the use of terms like "illegals" and "aliens," conservative media figures nonetheless have continued to make use of -- and even praise -- the use of such slurs, going as far as to say that hearing the term is "gratifying."
In an October 20 editorial The New York Times wrote that although removing the term from official government use may seem "like a trivial part of immigration reform ... words, and their evolution, matter greatly in fraught policy debates." Writing that there is "no compelling reason to keep a hostile term in the law that sets out how immigrants are welcomed into the country," The Times quoted Muzaffar Chishti, the director of the Migration Policy Institute at New York University School of Law, who noted that such rhetoric is often used to "demonize a community":
Lawmakers probably meant no harm when they codified the term "alien" into the landmark 1952 bill that remains the basis of America's immigration system. Since then, "alien" has found its way into many parts of the statute: foreigners granted temporary work permits are "non-permanent resident aliens"; those who get green cards by making investments in American businesses are "alien entrepreneurs"; Nobel laureates and pop stars who want to make America home can apply to become "aliens of extraordinary ability."
Recognizing how dehumanizing the term is to many immigrants, officials in California recently took commendable steps to phase it out. In August, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that deletes the term from the state's labor code. Last month, the California Republican Party adopted a new platform that does not include the term "illegal alien," saying it wanted to steer clear of the vitriolic rhetoric that the presidential candidate Donald Trump has injected into the 2016 race.
Several news organizations have adopted policies discouraging its use in reporting about immigrants. According to a review by the Pew Research Center in 2013, the use of the term in newspaper articles dropped sharply between 2007 and 2013. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that administers immigration benefits, has removed the word from some documents, including green cards.
But the term remains firmly embedded in conservative discourse, used by Republicans to appeal to the xenophobic crowd. Mr. Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, uses the term 12 times in his ruinous immigration plan, which calls for the mass deportation of millions of unauthorized immigrants and proposes that Washington bill Mexico to build a wall along the border. It was often uttered by former Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, whose idiotic immigration plan called for "self-deportation" by unauthorized immigrants.
"If you want to demonize a community, you use words that demonize," said Muzaffar Chishti, the director of the Migration Policy Institute at New York University School of Law. "Alien is more demonizing than immigrant."
Semantics may seem like a trivial part of immigration reform, but words, and their evolution, matter greatly in fraught policy debates.
States that use the word alien in their laws should consider following California's lead. The federal government should scrub it from official documents where possible. In the end, though, it will be up to Congress to recognize that there is no compelling reason to keep a hostile term in the law that sets out how immigrants are welcomed into the country.
On the October 16 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Eric Bolling and Republican Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach attacked a proposed California law that would have allowed convicted drug offenders to enter rehabilitation programs rather than facing deportation -- without acknowledging that the bill was actually vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown days earlier, to the dismay of advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch. Fox's Geraldo Rivera attempted to explain to the men that the legislation is intended to help drug offenders "get clean," but Bolling and Kobach fixated on concerns that California was becoming a "sanctuary state" for undocumented immigrants with criminal records:
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From the October 8 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
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From the September 16 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the September 11 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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From the September 2 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
From the August 26 edition of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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Conservative media praised 2016 GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for forcibly removing Univision anchor Jorge Ramos from his Iowa press conference, claiming that Ramos "thinks Mexicans can barge in and demand rights that aren't theirs," and "was treated exactly as he deserved."
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson, who used his August 17 show to call for undocumented immigrants to perform forced labor as "property of the state," is now misrepresenting what he said in an attempt to play down his incendiary comments, claiming he merely said that Iowa should erect signs threatening undocumented immigrants with indentured servitude if they did not leave the state. What Mickelson actually said was that such signs would only work if some immigrants were actually rounded up and forced into compelled labor.
From the August 23 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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From the August 21 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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The Washington Post called out "the myth of the 'anchor baby'" for being a "largely a mythical idea" with little basis in the law.
On August 17, Donald Trump released the details of his immigration plan, which calls for Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border and seeks to end birthright citizenship in the United States. The following night on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, Trump defended his extreme immigration proposals by repeatedly referring to children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants as "anchor babies" and insisting that they are not U.S. citizens. Conservative media have since applauded the presidential candidate for using the derogatory term as other candidates such as Jeb Bush and Bobby Jindal also embraced it.
But, as The Washington Post explained in an August 20 article, "the anchor baby, while potent politically, is largely a mythical idea." Writing that the term has "little legal underpinning" as "being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in immigration court," the articles notes that most children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents "must wait until their 21st birthday to begin the lengthy process" of helping their parents become citizens:
But usually the debate has been about the residency of the parents, who after all are supposed to be using the child as their "anchor."
This is the definition that has little legal underpinning. For illegal immigrant parents, being the parent of a U.S. citizen child almost never forms the core of a successful defense in an immigration court. In short, if the undocumented parent of a U.S.-born child is caught in the United States, he or she legally faces the very same risk of deportation as any other immigrant.
The only thing that a so-called anchor baby can do to assist either of their undocumented parents involves such a long game that it's not a practical immigration strategy, said Greg Chen, an immigration law expert and director of The American Immigration Lawyers Association, a trade group that also advocates for immigrant-friendly reforms. That long game is this: If and when a U.S. citizen reaches the age of 21, he or she can then apply for a parent to obtain a visa and green card and eventually enter the United States legally.
If a person has lived in the United States unlawfully for a period of more than 180 days but less than one year, there is an automatic three-year bar on that person ever reentering the United States -- and that's before any wait time for a visa. So that's a minimum of 21 years for the child to mature, plus the three-year wait.
And, for the vast majority of these parents, a longer wait also applies. If a person has lived in the United States illegally for a year or more, there is a 10-year ban on that person reentering the United States. So, in that case, there would be the 21-year wait for the child to mature to adulthood, plus the 10-year wait.
All told, the parents of the so-called anchor baby face a 24-to-31-year wait to even enter the United States, much less obtain a visa and green card or become a citizen.