by Katharine Daniels
Founder & Executive Editor, The WIP
- USA -
On Tuesday Hillary Clinton made a campaign stop in Salinas, California. Otherwise known as ‘the lettuce capital of the world’ or John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, Salinas just happens to be the farm town I call home.
Nearly 3,000 of Senator Clinton’s supporters showed up at the Hartnell College gymnasium to hear her speak. She was greeted in true Salinas Valley fashion, with mariachis and shouts for Viva la Causa (“Long Live Our Cause"). Clinton’s campaign stop was pulled together in just twenty-four hours following an official endorsement by the United Farm Workers of America, the union co-founded by Dolores Huerta and César Chávez that today represents more than 27,000 farm workers.
Clinton began her speech quoting César Chávez: “The fight is never about grapes or about lettuce. It is always about people.” I wondered if the folks in this gym shared any of my doubt or pessimism as to whether Clinton really means what she says.
As the economy slides toward recession and the candidates respond in tit-for-tat squabbles over televised question-and-answer sessions we erroneously call debates, I have become more and more disillusioned with all politicians and their regard for everyday Americans feeling the crunch. Clinton told her audience that “people” is what her campaign is about. She said, “I don’t believe this campaign is about me, or any of the candidates. I believe it is about what goals we are going to set for America and then how we will achieve them.” The people are here and the crisis is real. I eagerly awaited Clinton’s proposals.From the applause and energy in the room it was clear that the economic plan Clinton laid out on Tuesday spoke to many broken hearts. Her plan centers on rebuilding the middle class and drawing on our collective memory of what worked for America in the past. With new leadership in the White House and a new sense of “commitment, creativity, and innovation” by all Americans, Clinton believes we can come together and “maximize” what we can do. “In America we are supposed to look at the hard realities, roll up our sleeves and do something about it.” As she reported to the New York Times on Monday, “If you go back and look at our history, we were most successful when we had that balance between an effective, vigorous government and a dynamic, appropriately regulated market...[W]e have systematically diminished the role and responsibility of the government, and we have watched our market become imbalanced.”
Clinton’s approach to the economy begins with regaining fiscal sovereignty. The country must stop spending money it does not have and end our dependence on foreign money to satiate consumer demands, she warned. “We borrow money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis,” she said with sarcasm. One way to create more jobs right here in the United States is by investing in clean energy. She proposes a new workforce made up of “green collar” workers and the creation of five million jobs installing solar panels, wind turbines, and other clean energy devices. To pay for this she would eliminate the tax subsidies for big oil companies.
To address the mortgage crisis, Hillary Clinton proposes a 90-day moratorium that would freeze foreclosures and give homeowners and lenders the necessary time to renegotiate endangered loans. The screams around the room were indication enough that the mortgage crisis wasn’t just a story on CNN for folks in Salinas. Clinton’s moratorium proposal is for homeowners who can remain in their homes at the current rate but who would fall into foreclosure if it rises. Clinton would rather have homeowners in their homes paying something than out of their homes paying nothing. As Americans lose their homes “you see a deteriorating neighborhood, you see a deteriorating tax base, you begin to see a cut back in services, and then the next thing you know we are in a much deeper hole than we are in today,” she forewarned. Clinton also proposes a five year freeze on mortgage interest rates and putting $650 dollars immediately in the hands of people to deal with rising energy costs.The men and women I spoke with before Senator Clinton arrived were unanimously excited about her proposal for Universal Health Care. Her American Health Choices Plan would offer the Congressional Health Plan to all currently uninsured or underinsured Americans, giving them the ability to choose from the same plans available to members of Congress, including dental and mental health. Working families and small businesses would get tax credits to help pay the premiums. Clinton envisions a coalition of business, labor and medical professionals to take on the insurance industry. We must quit paying HMOs more than doctors and make electronic medical records mandatory, she declared. According to Clinton, the think tank Rand found that if electronic medical records were mandatory, the United States would save $77 billion a year.
Education, what Clinton referred to as “the passport for opportunity for the middle class” must be available to every child. She advocates for universal pre-kindergarten to prepare students for school and for creating partnerships with schools to implement what teachers know works, including smaller class sizes and ending Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. To make college affordable, Clinton proposes increasing Pell Grants and a $3500 tax credit for families for every child for each year they are in college. Clinton would create a National Service program that would allow students to earn up to $20,000 toward a college education. She also proposes a program where students could eliminate their education debt over time by taking a public service job after graduation. At that proposal, a twenty-something male sitting in front of me turned to his friend and said, “That’s what I’m talking about baby.” And for the 60% of our young people who do not go to college, Clinton discussed better on the job training and apprenticeship programs.
In spite of the vigorous applause Clinton received when she expressed her commitment to AgJobs, a bill that would give undocumented workers a path to citizenship, the room fell silent when Clinton’s speech turned to the 12 to 14 million people who are living here illegally. She spoke candidly about the unrealistic notion of actually rounding up all the undocumented workers who are in this country now and deporting them. Instead she suggests bringing people out of the shadows and registering everyone. The crowd appreciated her recognition that the vast majority of undocumented workers in America are hardworking people and not criminals. She spoke sternly, however, about the need to deport criminals and would require that all undocumented immigrants pay both a fine and back taxes. Her plan also includes toughening border security and holding employers accountable to the law. Communities like Salinas, whose public services are burdened by immigration, should receive proper aid from the federal government. Further, she would work with our neighbors to the south to create more jobs in their own countries to relieve northward migration.
An issue our writers and editors often discuss at The WIP is the rising anti-Americanism around the world. Restoring America’s leadership and moral authority, according to Clinton, begins with ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home. She pledged to start this process on day one in office. Concerned about both Americans’ and Iraqis’ safety, she would call on her Secretary of Defense, her Joint Chiefs of Staff and her Security Advisors to begin drawing up an appropriate plan. She pledged to take care of the young soldiers coming home from this war and the veterans from her generation who are also not getting the help they need. She proposes a 21st century G.I. Bill of Rights to take care of all American veterans.
By the time Senator Clinton concluded her speech she had spoken to our community for nearly an hour. The crowd cheered her on like a rock star and I couldn’t help but feel sadness. I worried, with all the hope in the room, coupled with a desperation that was palpable, ‘can Hillary or any of the candidates really turn this country around?’ Fiscal irresponsibility, war profiteering, the outsourcing of American jobs, and the decline of our educational system are all extremely huge challenges for the next president. Hillary appeared to have the power to deliver results. Let’s hope this isn’t just the accomplished performance of a good politician.
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