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Divided We Fail: Debates Fall Short in Addressing Health Care and Financial Security Issues

Only 6.4 percent of debate questions have dealt with nation’s top domestic concerns; debate tracker to debut

With Presidential debates failing to address America's top domestic issues, the Divided We Fail group announced a debate question tracker will debut after this week's PBS forum at Howard University. Only 6.4 percent of total questions asked in the first five national debates focused on health care and financial security.

"It makes very little sense that the top domestic issues Americans care about aren't being addressed by the candidates or their questioners," said AARP CEO Bill Novelli. "With this tracking system, coupled with our aggressive outreach to moderators as well as candidates alike, we can monitor whether our political leaders are talking about the health and financial security issues that the public wants them to discuss."

Three of the nation's leading consumer, business and labor organizations that make up Divided We Fail-AARP, Business Roundtable and Service Employees Union (SEIU)-will use the influence of their over 50 million combined memberships to amplify the message that attaining health and long-term financial security is vital for all Americans and these issues must be included in the national political debate.

"Health care and a secure retirement are central to a strong quality of life for all Americans," said John J. Castellani, President of Business Roundtable. "We will be keeping track of these issues and how candidates address them as we work to find solutions." The debate tracker will be published on the website and track the following info, with links to the debate transcripts:

Debate Date Total Questions DWF Questions Percent
NH Republican (CNN) NH Democratic (CNN) SC Republican (Fox) CA Republican (MSNBC) SC Democratic (MSNBC)
6/5/07 6/3/07 5/15/07 5/3/07 4/26/07
43 28 50 69 60
4 2 2 3 5
9.3% 7.1% 4.0% 4.3% 8.3%

"The only way to find solutions for the most important domestic issues in this country is to put them in the spotlight. This is one tool that can help elevate the debate on these areas," explained SEIU President Andy Stern.

Tavis Smiley will moderate the PBS forums, which will include three journalists who will pose questions to the candidates based on Smiley's book "Covenant With Black America." Two of the covenants are Healthcare and Well-Being and Economic Prosperity, which are of particular interest to Divided We Fail.

According to AARP research 44 percent of African-American Boomers say their personal finances are worse than they expected them to be at this point in their lives, and one-third think they will not be able to afford to retire. Less than half of African-Americans under 65 receive health care coverage from their employer, while almost one-quarter of African-Americans have no health insurance at all.

"Based on Mr. Smiley's question topics, and the research we know, Divided We Fail will be looking to hear candidates state his or her views on issues important to African-Americans and the public at large, so they can have the opportunity to make informed choices," Novelli concluded.

Divided We Fail

Divided We Fail now has offices in four early primary states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada) and encompasses traditional grassroots work, advertising, and online activities which will engage the public, business and elected officials in the debate, encouraging public leaders to offer solutions. More information about the Divided We Fail efforts can be found at


AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50 + educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Business Roundtable

Business Roundtable ( is an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with $4.5 trillion in annual revenues and more than 10 million employees. Member companies comprise nearly a third of the total value of the U.S. stock markets and represent over 40 percent of all corporate income taxes paid. Collectively, they returned $112 billion in dividends to shareholders and the economy in 2005. Roundtable companies give more than $7 billion a year in combined charitable contributions, representing nearly 60 percent of total corporate giving. They are technology innovation leaders, with $90 billion in annual research and development spending - nearly half of the total private R&D; spending in the U.S.


With 1.8 million members, SEIU ( is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union.

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