While making coffee, I listened to The Exchange, a New Hampshire Public Radio call-in program dedicated to the discussion of issues. The day’s topic: where did the Democratic candidates stand on taxes. I called in and asked why none of the Democratic candidates were talking about the self-employed, particularly the Self-Employment Tax. Great question, the host said; there are many self-employed people in New Hampshire. The host asked her two political experts what the Democrats were saying about the self-employed. They both replied that the self-employed were an important issue, particularly since the loss of manufacturing jobs was quickly increasing their ranks. But as far as they knew, none of the Democratic candidates had said anything about them. One of the political experts was self-employed himself; good question.
I drove to an Edward’s Town Meeting at the Manchester Public Library. It was to be held at noon, but I got there early in order to get a good seat in the front row. I watched the place fill up, pack in, then overflow with people and reporters. I took the time to position a “Self-Employed Unite” poster so that it could only be seen looking out from the stage. A camera crew from Providence, Rhode Island stood next to me in the aisle, freaked out by the close quarters: last year they had covered the fire that had killed hundreds at a Providence nightclub.
Edwards entered to a standing ovation. He introduced his wife. Then he gave his Two Americas speech; one for the privileged, one for everyone else. He spent a little extra time speaking to predatory lending practices, particularly astronomical credit card rates that fleeced America’s most needy.
Edward’s spoke indirectly about the war in Iraq; promising to end the war profiteering there. He pointed out that the war profiteering included not only Halliburton, but all of Bush’s biggest contributors. Twice during the speech, he was rudely interrupted by Lyndon LaRouche supporters.
When Edwards concluded his speech, he did not wait for questions. He shook many hands from the stage. When he got to me, I broke him from his handshaking trance, saying, “You’ve got to speak to the self-employed.”
Recognition flashed in Edwards face: “You, you really got to to me the last time. I will speak to the self-employed.”
“If you do, you’ll win.”
I noticed that Edward’s wife was standing by herself in the corner of the stage. I congratulated her on her husband’s good showing in Iowa. I told her that often the best way to a candidate was through his wife, and would she please speak to Senator Edwards about the need to address the self-employed. She said Edward’s mother had been self-employed, and that she was sure he’d be speaking about them. She took my packet, remarking that she’d noticed my “Self-Employed Unite” poster.
Outside, a ton of reporters waited for Edwards, freezing in the north wind. When he spoke to them, it was impossible to hear his answers.
I returned to my car to drive to Concord. On the radio, I heard the last half of Edward’s response to why he had voted to give President Bush authority to go to war in Iraq. He said it was not that he believed the President when he said that Iraq was armed with Weapons of Mass Destruction, but he had arrived at that conclusion because of intelligence sources that came to him through the Senate. He had voted for the war because he thought it was the right thing to do.
Went to the Concord Library to check the candidates schedules on the internet. Realized I could catch Kucinich at 3:15, Dean at 4:30, Kerry at 6:30.
Drove to the Conservation Center just east of Concord, where Kucinich was to give a State of the Union Speech, the second of four planned that day across southern New Hampshire. The room reserved for Kucinich was small, holding only about 75 people. Nearly all the seats were taken, and many stood in the back to hear the Congressman.
Kucinich read his State of the Union, a 20-page text printed in large type. Quickly, he left the lectern, and put himself amongst the crowd. It was a serious and detailed speech, in which he addressed the nation’s troubles and hopes with a vision wrapped in numbers.
When President Bush had taken office, the nation looked forward to a 5 trillion dollar surplus over ten years; now, the nation faced a 3.5 trillion dollar deficit over that same period. 2.3 million people had been added to the unemployment roles, and 3 million jobs had been lost in manufacturing. The nation was running a $550 billion yearly trade deficit. NAFTA and GATT had been written specifically to allow corporation to move abroad to avoid American labor, environmental and human rights standards, and since going into effect, NAFTA itself was responsible for the loss of 550 thousand jobs.
Kucinich would get the nation working again by withdrawing from NAFTA and GATT, and engage in international trade only through bilateral treaties that included strong labor, environmental, and human rights protections. Kucinich envisioned a $500 billion program sponsored by the federal government to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, to be accomplished through $500 billion of interest free loans to the states.
Kucinich spoke about the war in Iraq: The United States had to withdraw from Iraq as soon as possible; under his plan, withdrawal would take place in a three month period. The United States must turn over the contracting process and Iraqi oil assets to the UN until an Iraqi government was freely elected. The oil belonged to the Iraqi people, privatization of its resources must end now. The United States also owed the Iraqi people reparations.
Health insurance: If the federal government took over healthcare through a single-payer universal healthcare system, the 1.6 trillion dollars spent now by the American people on healthcare would cover all Americans. HMOs and insurance companies made profits by not offering care.
Social Security was secure until 2042, it must not be privatized. Look at the trouble private pension funds were in across the country. The government’s Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation had bailed out over 150 private pension plans last year alone at a cost of over 11 billion dollars. The underfunding of private pension plans was a breach of public trust. The misuse of pension funds, the lost dreams of the accumulated decades of labor, was a crime.
Kucinich concluded by stating that it was an appropriate role of government to guarantee jobs, education, and healthcare. The nation’s National Anthem tied together freedom and courage. Courage was the path this nation had to follow in facing its problems, and providing freedom and prosperity to all its citizens.
Kucinich went outside for a photo-op with his supporters. One woman spoke of her concern about Mad Cow Disease. Kucinich replied that he believed it was the result of dangerous practices of corporate agribusiness, and expressed his belief in the need to save small farms. I told him I was an organic farmer, and thanked him for his campaign. I hoped he’d do well in the primary, and believed his best shot was to speak to the self-employed in New Hampshire. Not a single candidate had addressed their needs, and there were tens of thousands who would hear him if he spoke to the self-employed in the coming debate. I gave him my packet (now much improved), and he asked if my number was on it. I don’t know if he recognized me from our meeting in Nashua, but a number of people had piped in to express their support of the self-employed, so I believed this time the message had gotten through.
Drove to the Dean rally at the New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord. As I entered the gymnasium, a Dean volunteer aggressively went through my briefcase, then apologized, saying they were fearful of LaRouche supporters. I was early for the event, and placed myself near the stage; no seats were provided. The gymnasium had been divided so that only about a third was in use, and over the next half hour about 500 people entered the space. The crowd was younger than any of the other candidates’ events. They seemed bewildered, much as a crowd at a sport’s event after a stunning reversal.
A teacher introduced herself as a person that had long ago dropped out of politics, but had been drawn back in by the Dean Campaign. She then introduced Joan Jett, who played four songs, accompanied by two other guitarists, but lacking a drum and bass. She began with “Bad Reputation”.
Another woman took the stage. She spoke of the child tax credit she had received from George W. Bush: $14.60. She had put it in the bank and tonight would donate it to Howard Dean. She handed the mic off to another woman, who spoke of her outrage at the thought of parents charging thousands of dollars to a credit card, expecting the children to pay. This was just what was happening under the Bush Administration.
Dean took the stage. He said if the crowd expected red meat tonight, they’d be disappointed. Tonight he would speak of the State of the Union.
He spoke of the importance of balancing the budget. Nations would not invest in the United States, if they did not believe this nation was fiscally stable. When times got tough, government had to be solvent to address the needs of the people. Vermont and its social programs had survived two Bush recessions because he had balanced the budget 11 times. Borrowing, and then borrowing more, left nations weak and open to disaster, like Argentina.
Dean’s speech began to gather momentum. Then a person unveiled a Confederate flag, and was escorted out by security as he got abusive. The crowd chanted, “Dean, Dean, Dean” to fill the delay and keep Dean on track.
Vermont, a poor, rural state, had delivered healthcare to nearly all its citizens, and improved education—imagine what could be done with the resources of the federal government. If all the industrialized nations of the world guaranteed healthcare to its citizens, why couldn’t the United States?
Two people tried to unveil another Confederate flag. Dean sang “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” as security escorted them away.
Dean went back to his speech by talking of the Early Childhood Intervention Program he had started in Vermont. As a result, child abuse had gone down 43%, and child sex abuse had gone down 71%. Two LaRouche supporters heckled him, but he went on over their shouts.
Dean concluded by speaking of a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people. “We want our country back. You have the power to take back the White House. You have the power.”
The crowd gave him a strong ovation, much more certain of their man than when they entered.
Dean gave the audience no time for questions, but immediately began to shake hands over a steel barricade that separated him from the crowd. I gave him an 8 inch by 15 inch laminated “Self-Employed Unite” poster to sign, declaring, “The self-employed really need help.”
“They really do,” he replied.
“My cousin ********* says you’re a good man.”
“*********, she’s a really smart woman.”
“She said you’d want to read this,” and handed him the packet.
When my cousin ********* was a debutante, Howard Dean had been her escort.
I raced off to the Kerry chili feed at Pemberton High School, about five miles south of Concord. When I got there, the place was packed, and a fire Marshall quite properly was only letting people enter as people left. By the time I got in, Kerry was concluding his talk, standing in the center of the cafeteria surrounded by people with empty bowls of chili. His last words were, “We need solutions, not slogans. Answers, not anger.”
Kerry received polite applause. Then he fielded questions, focusing on each person, gently trying to draw out the details of their story, often concluding, “You see, ladies and gentlemen, this is the real America.”
One woman told of her inability to afford drugs for her diabetes. She made too much money to qualify for Medicaid, too little to buy her much needed medication. Kerry said this was an example of the “real America”.
A woman asked about the high cost of health insurance. Kerry responded by describing his health insurance plan, one that included a 50% tax credit for the self-employed. All American’s premiums would be greatly reduced, because in his healthcare plan the government took over the costs of catastrophic injuries or illness when the cost exceeded $50,000.
A vet described losing his Veterans Benefits. Kerry remarked that it was outrageous that George Bush had money to give tax breaks to the wealthy, but not to take care of veterans—he couldn’t think of any single action less patriotic. Kerry went on to describe the programs he’d sponsored in the Senate to help the nation’s veterans—benefits for vets suffering from Agent Orange poisoning, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Gulf War Syndrome.
A high school student spoke of her fears of not being able to afford college. Kerry outlined his higher education program, one that included an annual tax credit of $4,000 for families sending their children through college. Kerry then told of his National Service Program; in exchange for two years of community service, the federal government would pay the full tuition to any state college.
The last question was about AIDS. Kerry replied about the need to stop the AIDS pandemic in Africa, not only for humanitarian reasons, but because the forty million dead had left fifteen million orphans. These decimated societies were breeding grounds for terrorists. Kerry had sponsored legislation that had passed the Senate to get needed drugs to these nations, but the House and George W. Bush had killed it.
Kerry concluded by stating that this election was the most important in three generations. He quoted Benjamin Franklin, who, on being asked whether the new Constitution created a republic or a monarchy, replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
Kerry received polite applause. I approached him to shake his hand. I thanked him for speaking for the self-employed as regards health insurance, but the problems of the self-employed went far deeper than that. For instance, the Small Business Administration gave the self-employed less than 1/10th of 1% of SBA Loans. Kerry replied that he was a co-sponsor of the legislation that created the microloan program in the SBA. The Bush Administration was not administering it properly.
At that moment Teresa Heinz Kerry came through the crowd. She pulled at Kerry’s arm saying, “I told you to use the word ‘self-employed’.”
I then asked Kerry to just add the word self-employed when he spoke about small business: “small business and the self-employed”. I explained that the phrase “small business” was code to the self-employed for being ignored. To defeat George W. Bush, he needed to get the attention of the 20 million self-employed Americans by using their name. Kerry agreed. During this exchange, Teresa Heinz Kerry mouthed words in the background to me, “I told him. I told him.” I then thanked Senator Kerry and his wife.
I was exhausted. I had a terrible headache, probably because my entire liquid intake for the day had been two cups of coffee. I bought myself a bottle of apple juice, then went to a seafood store and purchased two lobsters; figured I deserved it.
Drove back to Wolfeboro. As I cooked the lobsters, I listened to President Bush’s State of the Union. The country was fighting for freedom and prospering.