|PART III: THE ECONOMY|
September 4, 2003
In the third part of the debate, all eight candidates blasted the president's handling of the economy and outlined general plans for improving the employment and business environment picture in the U.S.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's talk about the economy.
DENNIS KUCINICH: The following steps need to be taken in order to begin to help the American economy recover. First of all, when you consider that we've lost 2.7 million manufacturing jobs since July of 2000, it's shocking but the United States does not have a manufacturing policy, an economic policy which states that the maintenance of steel, automotive, aerospace and shipping is vital to our national economy and our national security. We will have a policy when I'm president.
Secondly, we have to do everything we can to secure our manufacturing base, and that means giving a critical examination to those trade agreements that have caused a loss of hundreds of thousands, in some cases millions of jobs, in this economy. As president of the United States, my first act in office, therefore, will be to cancel NAFTA and the WTO and to return to bilateral trade, conditioned on workers' rights, human rights and the environment.
On Labor Day, I announced a new initiative, a new initiative which
will enable the United States to rebuild its cities in the same way
that Franklin Roosevelt rebuilt America during the Depression, called
a new WPA-type program, rebuild our cities, our streets, our water systems,
our sewer systems, new energy systems. It's time to rebuild America.
We have the resources to do it, we have to have the will to do it.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Congressman. We'll get to NAFTA again
a little later.
BOB GRAHAM: First, let me say I have done it. For eight years I was governor of one of the largest and most complicated and diverse states in the nation. While I was governor, 1.4 million new jobs were created. Those jobs had the effect for the first time in my state's history, raising the average per capita income above the national average. For three years, Florida was designated as the state that had the best climate for economic expansion and growth. So when I say what we should do, I am not speculating. I am bringing the experience of actually creating good jobs for our people.
What we should do? One, we should repeal all of the portions of the
Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, which went primarily to the upper incomes.
If we can spend the money to rebuild the electric system, the bridges
and highways and schools of Iraq and Afghanistan, we can do it in the
United States of America.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Thank you, Senator. Ambassador Moseley Braun, he's saying to repeal the tax cuts in 2002, 2003. Do we ask people to give the money back?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: No. No, you'll never get it back. The point is -- The point is, we are witnessing for the first time in recent history embedded wealth, entrenched poverty and a shrinking middle class in America. And the only way we can turn that around is to end the trickle-down economics that have given the wealthiest Americans more money than they can even reasonably use and give people opportunity to support themselves and their families. If you invest in the masses of the people, you can create jobs and create the kind of stimulus for the economy that will give prosperity to everybody.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Well, how do you create those jobs?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: You do it--well, when I was in the Senate, I proposed rebuilding our nation's crumbling schools. That's one way. A second way is to begin to rebuild traditional infrastructure--roads and bridges and the like. Another way, which I find very exciting, is to invest in environmental technologies--technology transfer, creating incentives for people-- for entrepreneurs to create whole new industries and environmental technologies that, frankly, will not only preserve our air and our water and our soil here, and deal with energy shortfalls and difficulties, but also give us product to sell to the rest of the world.
I want to finish up with one other point. I am also very concerned
about the pay gap--what I call the sticky floor--on which many women,
who are sole providers often for their families, are stuck.
RAY SUAREZ: Governor Dean, people doing all kinds of work have lost jobs in the last couple of years. But people working in the manufacturing sector have done worst of all, losing between 2 and 3 million jobs. Now, Congressman Kucinich talked about preserving certain industrial capacities as a matter of national security. But given the way goods move around the world, can we really say to a laid-off American steel worker, textile worker or auto worker, with any assurance that they ever are going to get their jobs back?
HOWARD DEAN: We can say that we can have jobs again in America, manufacturing
jobs in America. I agree with most of what was said here about the economy.
The one piece I would add to it, however, is that we need to stop corporate
welfare and start doing something for small businesses in this country.
RAY SUAREZ: Senator Edwards, North Carolina has seen the loss of many of the jobs that we've been talking about. What's the role of the president in all of this?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, you know, the president goes around the country
speaking Spanish. The only Spanish he speaks when it comes to jobs is,
"Hasta la vista."
But it's not enough to just protect the jobs that we have. We have
to create jobs, and particularly in those communities where the job
loss has been greatest. So what I would do is identify those places
in America that have been hit the hardest, particularly by trade, and
create a national venture capital fund for businesses that will locate
there, give tax incentives to existing business and industry that will
come there. The two other things we need to do, though, to get this
economy going again is something this president is incapable of doing,
which is cracking down on corporate cheating so that business actually
works for employees.
RAY SUAREZ: Thank you, Senator Edwards. Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: I certainly support the goal. And let me talk about
that. Let me describe the Bush policy toward Latin America in a Spanish
phrase: (Speaking in Spanish).
Look, all of us on this stage agree that the Bush economic policy has
been a powerful failure. It has stifled the American dream, has lost
3.2 million jobs, 2.5 million in manufacturing.
Let me say the same is true with regard to fair trade for the Americas and Latin America. We have turned our back on our allies to the south.
I want to say something about what Governor Dean said. He said here
tonight, again, something that I read he said on an interview with The
Washington Post, which I found to be stunning, which is that he would
not have bilateral trade agreements with any country that did not observe
fully American standards. Now that would mean we'd break our trade agreements
with Mexico, with Latin America, with most of the rest of the world.
That would cost us millions of jobs.
We cannot put a wall around America. We cannot put a wall around America,
and we cannot leave our businesses and workers defenseless. We have
to have trade, which is good for our economy and good for our relations
with Latin America.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Governor Dean?
HOWARD DEAN: Thank you for the opportunity to respond. We do have to
have trade relations which rely on equality and labor standards throughout
the world. It doesn't have to be American labor standards; it could
be the International Labor Organization. I believe Mexico will do that.
I believe that Mexico wants open trade relationships with the United
States. And I believe, given the reform that's gone on in Mexico under
Vicente Fox, that we will in fact be able to negotiate with Mexico the
same labor standards, the same human rights and the same environmental
standards over a period of time. And I think we need to do that. We
cannot continue to ship our jobs to countries where they get paid 50
cents an hour with no occupational safety and health, no overtime, no
labor protections and no right to organize. We're going to move every
job out of this country.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Let's go to Senator Kerry.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Maria Elena, may I say just briefly that Governor Dean, in his interview with The Washington Post, referred to American standards, not international standards.
HOWARD DEAN: Either is fine with me.
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Well, then that's a reassuring change of position. I totally support the application of international labor standards to all of our bilateral trade agreements, and I have fought for that on the floor of the Senate over and over again.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Senator Kerry, in Mexico the salaries for many workers is $1 a day. Can we ask Mexico to pay $5 to $10 an hour like we do in the United States?
JOHN KERRY: Well, we can ask them, but they'll say no. If I could just
put this in a context a little bit. You know, it's interesting that
the Standard & Poor's went up to 1,000, and the Dow went up to 9,400,
which proves that good things happen when George Bush is on vacation,
In fact, I think the only jobs created in the United States of America
by George Bush are the nine of us running for president of the United
But I want to speak to the larger question because it's critical. I
don't support the free trade agreement of America as it is today, I
don't support the Central American free trade agreement as it is today
because they do desperately need to have increased labor standards,
environment standards, to bring other countries up. You can't have trade
be a rush to the bottom, and you can't leave other nations with a one-way
street, and you can't abuse people the way it has been.
This president isn't asking Americans or giving Americans the opportunity
to do that. Education could be more invigorated, science could be more
invigorated, the most anti-science administration in modern history.
We need to push energy. Energy independence for the United States of
America will create thousands of jobs in our country. We need to push
the environmental standards.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: What do you tell the Latin American countries that are telling the United States, "You're only looking toward the Middle East, why don't you look south?"
JOHN KERRY: I think it would be wonderful to have a president of the
United States who could find the rest of the countries in this hemisphere.
And I will do that.
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: Ray?
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Gephardt, we've heard mixed support for NAFTA, as it's been working for the last almost 10 years, and mixed levels of support for free trade in the Americas. Where do you stand on these two questions?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, I'm surprised, frankly, to hear the outpouring of support for standards for the environment and labor in treaties like NAFTA and the China free trade treaty. Most of the candidates here voted for those treaties without proper standards. I was the one who took on my own president, and I agreed with Bill Clinton on most things. I was his majority leader, but I thought on this it was wrong, because we didn't have those standards in the provisions of the treaty. We had side agreements that didn't mean anything, but we needed in the treaty.
They're right. We do have a race to the bottom. Remember what Henry
Ford said? "I got to pay my workers enough so there's somebody
to buy the cars they are making." It never changes. It never changes.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll touch on many of those subjects later in the conversation.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: These are important issues. This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy...
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman, we'll get to health care soon.
RICHARD GEPHARDT: ... and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced.
RAY SUAREZ: Congressman Kucinich, if we follow the advice and the assurances that you just gave and start to pull out of some of these treaties, if we start to demand these standards abroad in the places that America acquires the things it sells in its stores, won't the price of everything that you see when you walk into a Wal-Mart go up, everything that you see when you go into a Kmart or, indeed, even to the supermarket?
DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, the real question, Ray, is what kind of profits do the Kmarts and the Wal-Marts of the world make?
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Kmart, not too much.
DENNIS KUCINICH: But on the misery of those people in Third World countries who are working for pennies an hour and are finding themselves unable to support their own families. I mean, all this talk about trade here belies something that really needs to be looked at and that is NAFTA makes it impossible to be able to protect workers' rights. Now, those people say they're going to put conditions on NAFTA. If you put conditions on NAFTA, that's WTO illegal.
So what we need to do--the only way that we can go back to trade which
will work for the American people and for people all over North America
is to make sure that we have workers' rights, human rights and environmental
quality principles in trade. And by workers' rights I mean this: the
right to collective bargaining, the right to strike.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, let me get your response on this, Senator Kerry, because I know that you've been a big supporter of free trade over the past years. Earlier today I went to the University of New Mexico bookstore, as I'm bound to do, and I bought T-shirts for all my children. None of them were made in the United States, though they were all made in this hemisphere.
JOHN KERRY: Correct.
RAY SUAREZ: Very clearly labeled in the collar. Is the answer making those things here or just making sure they're made there in a better way?
JOHN KERRY: No, I think Dennis--I admire what he is saying and I am as strongly committed as he is to those worker rights and to the efforts to raise the level, but it would be disastrous to just cancel it. You have to fix it. You have to have a president who understands how to use the power that we have as the world's biggest marketplace to properly leverage the kind of behavior that we want.
You also have to have a president who is prepared to have an enforcement structure, particularly an attorney general whose name is not John Ashcroft, who is prepared-- who is prepared to enforce the laws. And the president himself, through the powers of the various sections of the trade agreement, has the ability to get tougher.
The fact is that Bill Clinton was absolutely correct. We not only were responsible fiscally, we not only created 23 million jobs in America--I mean, we created more jobs than ever before and we traded. What's happened is, in the last three or four years that relationship has gotten out of whack. And this president doesn't care about it.
We need a president of the United States who is prepared to enforce a new standard between our countries, and I intend to do that, but I also know that we have to trade. You can't shut yourself down and hope to grow your economy and expect to put the American people to work the way we need to.
RAY SUAREZ: Maria Elena?
MARIA ELENA SALINAS: (Speaking in Spanish)
BOB GRAHAM: We can do it in this way. One, by practicing pragmatic common sense. Two very smart people, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, 10 years ago tried to pass a comprehensive health-care reform. They were unable to do so.
I think the lesson from that is that if we are going to get health care to those currently uninsured, we need to set the goal of all Americans having access to health care and then proceed in a step-by-step basis.
I would personally advocate that we provide first for children, then for the working poor, and third for the early retiree. If we did those three groups, we would cut by two-thirds the number of Americans who do not have health coverage. And we could do that at a cost of approximately $70 billion a year, a cost that I think is one the American people can afford and would support.
So I think that there is a way to get to the resolution of one of our most serious national concerns and that is how do we provide effective health care in this rich country to all Americans.