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Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Karen holds an M.A. in Philosophy and Social Policy from the American University in Washington D.C. Karen joined IPS in 1996; Karen’s public scholarship and activism at IPS has linked community-led organizations with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. The focus of her work is on anti-poverty issues, local democracy/empowerment, and peace. Karen currently coordinates the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, edited by NYT Best-Selling Author Barbara Ehrenreich, which focuses on telling the stories of widespread economic hardship in the U.S. Some of Karen’s publications include: Battered By The Storm: How the Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix it, Our Communities are Not for Sale; Paying the Price: the Mounting Costs of War in Iraq, Unleash Democracy in Mandate for Change, and Foreign Policy Goes Local. Karen blogs for Huffington Post and regularly appears in other media outlets. Karen serves on the boards of: The Participatory Budgeting Project and Jobs With Justice Worker Rights Board.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.And now for another take on the RomneyâObama debate, we're now joined by Karen Dolan. Karen is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. The focus of her work is on anti-poverty issues and local democracy and peace. Thanks for joining us, Karen.KAREN DOLAN, FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Thanks so much for having me, Paul.JAY: So what did you make of the debate?DOLAN: Well, I think the big news about the debate is there are no winners from that debate. There are only losers. And the biggest losers are the American public.JAY: And what did youâdid you see two competing visions there or not?DOLAN: From my perspective, I saw a complete lack of vision.I think that the most important issueâthe debate started with potentially the most important issue, when Jim Lehrer asked each of the candidates, what are you going to do about jobs? That's the issue. However, neither chose to answer that question very well or completely. My takeaway from Obama was his answer had to do with loving his sweetie. And I know that Romney tried to pull a sort of a populist stance, but I don't think it works with him very well.And I think really what we got last night was a whole lot of nothing, and it was a real opportunity lost for both candidates, but really for the American public to see any kind of vision or leadership or a way forward that we could get behind.JAY: I thought Romney made a point. It's not so profound and not so strong, but it seemed to disarm President Obama, 'cause I don't know why he didn't take it on, unless he kind of believes in it himself to some extent. When Romney accuses Obama of being a supporter of trickle-down government, he's taking a preemptive strike of being accused of, you know, trickle-down economics Ã Â laÂ Reagan, which is essentially what he's preaching. But Obama doesn't take him on on it.DOLAN: Well, Obama didn't take Romney on on much of anything last night. Indeed, in some places he seemed to concede that things like some of our earned-benefit programs, like Social Security, need to be fixed in ways that they don't actually need to be fixed. And I think that Obama, the biggest fault was conceding already to a kind of idea that we have a debt crisis in this country, and that deep, hard, and painful cuts are going to have to come one way or another.And that simply isn't true. We are a wealthy nation. America is not broke. We have lots of sources of revenue. We just need the political will, the leadership, and the plan for that to happen. There isn't a need to have one in five children continue to starve and at the same time cut the food stamp program that helps put food on their table. There's no need to take away the meager ability for moms and dads who've temporarily lost their jobs to make ends meet for a while through the necessary program of unemployment insurance benefits. We don't need to be cutting heating assistance. We don't need to be taking away refundable tax credits. We don't need to be giving tax breaks to wealthy, to corporations. We don't need to allowâto continue to allow corporate tax havens. We don't need to allow corporations to be able to pollute freely.There are choices that our nation needs to make, and we need leaders who tell the truth to the American people that we're not broke, we've got plenty of money. How are we going to use it? How are we going to spend it? What are our priorities? That's what we didn't hear last night.JAY: Well, there was no mention, I don't think, of the word poverty once. And if anyone was speaking on behalf of people who have done particularly badly during the recession, Romney actually spoke on behalf of them more than President Obama did. But I guess the reality for President Obama, or reality he accepts, at least, is that those poor people who might vote are more likely to vote for him anyway. Most poor people or a lot of poor people don't vote anyway. And so all President Obama was talking to are people who might vote Republican. And all he seemed to want to do is not offend them.DOLAN: No, I agree with you. And I think that was a really poor strategy. I think that it was evident in a debate about the economy and about domestic issues that poverty wasn't mentioned, women's rights weren't mentioned, civil rights weren't mentioned, immigration wasn't mentioned. Is it that Obama has taken for granted the women's vote, the Latino vote, poor people's vote? I mean, this is a debate that isn't supposed to be won or lost on style; it's supposed to be substance.Actually, in the Twitterverse and on the internet and so forth today, mostly what you're hearing is praise for Romney in terms of style and sort of a lackluster performance from Obama in terms of style. But that's not the real question, that's not the real issue. The real issue is: where's the plan? Where are the jobs? How are we going to move forward? How are we going to be the kind of nation that we're supposed to be? That was completely missing. I could care less about the style, really. I want to know what are the issues, why were these not mentioned.And I think it's for the reasons that you say, Paul. He's appealing to a veryâeach of them are appealing to a very small segment of the American public. And it doesn't serve either of them well. Nor does it serve us at all.JAY: So if neither had a vision that you thought made sense and neither of them seem to have a plan for dealing with the crisis, if you lived in a swing state, does it make any difference to you who you vote for?DOLAN: It does. I mean, you know, if I did live in a swing state, it's obvious to me that even given the lackluster performance last night and the lack of vision put forward by Obama, that he still has put forward, both during his term and in some of his proposals thus far, priorities that are closer to those of the majority of the American people. He does, after all, you know, care more about the 47Â percent and indeed the 99Â percent than Romney does. And we know that Romney explicitly does not care about those people.JAY: You say we know that. How do we know that?DOLAN: Well, we know that in terms of the kinds of policies that he made previously in terms of the Recovery Act, in terms of bolstering some of the programs for the poor and the low-income, in terms of extending unemployment insurance benefits, in terms of bolstering the SNAP program, the food stamp program, and in terms of some of the budget proposals that he put forward. So there were lots of things that helped low-income families but that were stymied in Congress.However, I don't see him leading on that. He did sort of this stopgap in terms of safety net provisions, but a lot of those are set to expire. He needs to really fight for those now. He needs to be much more bold on jobs. He did putâhe made some good steps, in terms of some of these things, with the Recovery Act, but the Recovery Act is over. Now it's time for the new proposal, the new way forward, and we haven't seen that from him, we haven't seen the kind of proposals that we need. We know that he cares about those, based on the record that he's had thus far. It wasn't enough, but it did express the values that match most of the values of most of the American public.JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Karen.DOLAN: Thank you.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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