A (Surprisingly) Productive Debate at Politicon 2017: Ben Shapiro vs. Cenk Ugyur

On Sunday, at the third annual Politicon held in Pasadena, California, former MSNBC pundit and host of The Young Turks Cenk Ugyur debated former Breitbart Editor and Daily Wire Editor-at-Large, Ben Shapiro.

During the hour-long conversation, the two focused on American health care and tax policy, while also touching on the underlying themes of size of government and frustration with establishment political parties.

On Health Care

At the top of the debate, the two expressed extreme frustration with Republican health care plans, however for opposing reasons. Both debaters also accepted Shapiro’s framework that healthcare should at its core focus on maximizing universality, quality, and affordability.

Ugyur stated that he thinks Obamacare makes quality, affordability, and universality of care better and supports strengthening the bill, ideally phasing it to single-payer plan.

Shapiro, on the other hand, opposed Obamacare on the grounds that it increases universality of care at the expense of quality and affordability of coverage.

After proposing their initial positions at the top of the conversation, the two delved into their opinions more thoroughly through a back and forth exchange.

Cenk noted that although the ACA is gradually making care better, American coverage is currently ranked 37th in the world, a statistic which he asserts could be improved if we drew on wisdom from countries with more effective insurance like Japan.

In response, Shapiro noted that America has the highest success rate in treating cancer patients, which he attributes to superior American care quality.

The speakers also argued on how financially feasible the plans would be. Ugyur said that providing universal health care would not cost as much as many people think. Even if the plan was economically burdensome, Ugyur thinks that ensuring care and basic welfare of the country is more important.

Shapiro noted that even though individual taxpayers may not be affected by universal coverage, the plan on the bigger government would be burdensome. He cites the fact that even the predominantly liberal California State Assembly is stalling a state-wide universal health care plan on the grounds that implementation would double the debt.

Crowds bigger than expected and we moved to a new space. We’ve been delayed until about 6pm PT / 9pm PT. Stay tuned!

Posted by Ben Shapiro on Sunday, July 30, 2017

On Taxation and The Economy

While Shapiro supported more of a supply side model, Cenk championed a Keynesian economic model, arguing that redistribution ultimately stimulates the economy because the middle class will invest more in the economy out of necessity than the more inclined to save upper class.

In response, Shapiro noted that having entrepreneurs with expendable income to invest in companies is the driving force behind capitalism, which ultimately produced the wealth of the Western world as well as luxury products that–while not essential–enrich society, pointing at goods like iPhones.

The conversation then shifted from tax policy to talk about the role of money in politics. Ugyur stated that corporate donations to politicians are corrupt and expressed his opposition to the Citizens’ United decision.  

Shapiro agrees with Ugyur that the government should forbid true cases of quid pro quo, but he disagreed with a ban on corporation’s ability to give political contributions. The conservative pundit argues that there needs to be a higher burden of proof to prove bribery rather than just asserting it whenever corporate money is involved.

The conversation took a personal turn when Shapiro brought Ugyur’s own business interests into the conversation. Shapiro pointed out that The Young Turks, Cenk’s company, donated money to the Bernie Sanders primary campaign, and by Cenk’s logic, he would have to be opposed to that his own corporation’s donation on the grounds of corruption.  

Common Ground

While Ben Shapiro and Cenk Ugyur certainly have their policy position differences, the two shockingly found a lot of common ground, which helped foster a productive, substantive conversation between two influential pundits in alternative media.

Policy wise, both pundits think that corporatocracy – or giving government subsidies to help private companies – is bad. Shapiro also conceded that the Republican Party elites’ use of the Southern strategy was wrong, although he rejects Cenk’s assertion that Southern voters became Republican because of the Civil Rights Act and attributes this shift to Southern, small-business integration in their economies.

Both emphasized their disaffection with the current polarization and in fighting in American political parties, a sentiment that seems representative of the general public’s take on politics.

The two also agreed and continually asserted that politicians and pundits should focus on talking about substantive policy instead of focusing on ingroup, identity politics. They felt that focusing on mobilizing demographics as parts of groups instead of focusing on actual policy initiatives hurts both political parties and angers the American public, an anger which both pundits implied largely helped elect Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016.

Perhaps fostering discussions between such ideologically diverse viewpoints at nonpartisan events, like Politicon, is a step towards bridging together what seems to be increasing polarization and incivility in Washington.

Whoever you thought won this debate, these pundits and their large followings are calling on Washington to enact policy change from the establishment, however in different directions.

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