Drove to Nashua to an 11:30 Dean Town Meeting at Martha’s Exchange. This was the first small venue I’d been to for a Dean event, the space holding only about 150 people. Dean would speak in the round, absent the large American flag of his previous proscenium performances. As I waited for the event to begin, I struck up a conversation with two self-employed people sitting next to me. One was a travel agent who had turned his business into a Limited Liability Company to avoid the Self-Employment Tax; the other was a landscaper who was paying $900 a month in health insurance premiums to cover her family. Both were undecided on who to vote for.
A software engineer spoke. He bemoaned the loss of jobs in Southern New Hampshire—outsourced to Asia. There were simply no new jobs in the area, and many people that had work were making less than in previous years. Governor Dean knew the importance of creating jobs.
Dean entered to a standing ovation. He quickly got to the subject of jobs. Jobs would not come until there was fiscal responsibility—something he understood as Governor, where he had balanced the budget eleven straight times, even through two Bush recessions. President Bush served only the large corporations and the special interests of Washington. The three trillion dollar deficit was a direct giveaway of ordinary Americans’ money to the nation’s most wealthy and powerful. As President, he would stop catering to special interests and the largest corporations, and focus on those firms that were loyal to their communities, creating incentives for “small business and the self-employed.”
I gave a whoop similar to Dean’s Iowa scream. He looked at me and said, “That must be the lobbyist for the self-employed.”
Dean went on. Capitalism was the greatest economic engine ever created. But there had to be rules, without rules capitalism was like a hockey game without the referee. George Bush did not understand what ordinary Americans were going through because of his fiscal irresponsibility. Dean wanted to bring Americans back to a time of hope, not simply appeal to their fears.
Dean stood for questions. He answered spontaneously about the IMF, healthcare, special education (the federal government should take responsibility for funding special education), and defense. He supported maintaining current defense expenditures, but he would reallocate money form weapon’s systems to the people that served, so that our troops would be properly equipped. Also, this President did not understand that one of the greatest defenses of this nation was to be admired. But who in the world now looked at the United States with admiration?
Dean was asked what he perceived as an equitable tax system. He replied if we had Clinton’s taxes, maybe we’d have Clinton’s economy. Payroll taxes were now unduly burdensome, particularly on “small business and the self-employed.” He thought that tax credits should accompany payroll taxes.
Dean’s last question was about NAFTA and GATT. These trade agreements had globalized the rights of corporations, but not the rights of people. Labor, environmental, and human rights laws had to be globalized as well, otherwise these trade agreements were nothing but a race to the bottom. At the turn of the century, the trade union movement had lifted the nation’s workers into the largest middle class in the world, and created the most prosperous economy in history. The rights of labor had to be maintained. If trade unions were freely allowed to organize worldwide, that would push prices up in America, but we’d be better off despite higher prices. Jobs would be more likely to remain here, and millions of people would be less likely to immigrate if labor laws lifted them out of the squalor of their own nations. The best measure of a democracy was the empowerment of its women. As for international environmental laws, if it cost a corporation millions to keep a river clean in the United States, but nothing to pollute a river overseas, isn’t it logical that that corporation would move to the country where it could freely pollute?
Dean concluded, “This campaign is not about me going to the White House, it’s about us going to the White House. I am not beholden to special interests, only to ordinary people.”
Dean received an enthusiastic standing ovation. The two self-employed people that were sitting next to me said they were swayed to vote for him, and congratulated me on my self-employed lobbying success.
Dean went through the crowd shaking hands. I took his hand, and thanked him for speaking for the self-employed.
“How can you get the word ‘self-employed’ into your small business commercial?” I asked.
“That’s up to the media people.”
“Can I show them my statistics?”
“I have your packet. I’ll give it to them.”
“You can take Missouri. There are 430,000 self-employed in Missouri.”
Dean moved on. I had the statistics concerning Missouri still in my hand. I went to Mike, Dean’s personal assistant, and handed the packet to him, explaining that Dean just spoke for the self-employed. Governor Dean wanted to see this, these were the statistics for the self-employed in Missouri.
I watched Mike for five minutes. He cradled the packet like it was important. Then I left.
I was thrilled that Dean had just spoken for the self-employed. I wanted to go back to the water tower and celebrate, but realized I needed to follow Dean to his next event in Keene at 7:30.
This Dean event was in the middle school auditorium, which had a seating capacity of 1,100. Although I was ten minutes early, all the seats were taken. The fire marshal would not let the event start until all the aisles were cleared. Two hundred of us went to the basement to watch Dean on TV.
Rob Reiner introduced Dean, and spoke of his great admiration. Here was a politician that not only said things, but did them. In particular, Reiner admired the Early Childhood Intervention Program that Dean had fought so hard for in Vermont.
Dean took the stage. Standing ovation after standing ovation followed his words. Those in the basement cheered as if in the rally itself. Dean did not need histrionics to hold the attention of the crowd, but held them with his strength of purpose.
I listened for the word ‘self-employed’ in his speech and during the questioning period. He never spoke of small business, but did explain in some length his 87 billion dollar health insurance plan: All people under 25 would be covered by the federal government; all families of four making less than $33,000 would be covered by the government; serious illness would not translate into premium increases; a prescription drug program for the elderly that offered real coverage; “the self-employed would be able to purchase the same health insurance plan as members of Congress for 7.5% of their income.”
Yahoo! Good idea.