Democrats' Debate

Columbia, SC, January 30, 2004







MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

MR. STANTON: Presidential Candidates Forum, a Dialogue with America's Families. This forum is sponsored by WIS-TV, the Center for Community Change, and the Tom Joyner Morning Program. I'm David Stanton with WIS-TV.

MR. JOYNER: I'm Tom Joyner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. What we have this morning are real families selected and these real families will ask questions of the candidates. The candidates will come out here one at a time, and these families will talk to these candidates one-on-one about the issues that affect them. This is not a debate, this is a dialogue with America's families.

Are we ready to get started?

MR. STANTON: Before we begin, we're going to review our format. Each candidate is going to be introduced and will have 45 seconds to respond to an opening statement responding to this question, would you set a goal of reducing poverty as president, and if so what would the goal be, and how would you achieve it?

MR. JOYNER: We have to do the legal disclaimer.

MR. STANTON: The families will ask the questions, the candidates will have a minute 30 to respond.

MR. JOYNER: I mean, the views, and how the lawyers always have you say, the views do not reflect the views of the radio station, the television station, and the Center for Community Change.

MR. STANTON: I think you just did. Thank you very much.

MR. JOYNER: Legal is in my ear.

MR. STANTON: Tom and I are going to also be asking questions, and the candidates will have a minute to respond to each of our questions. And we also ask the audience, if you would, please, keep your applause down until the end of our program so we'll have more time to hear from the candidates. Six of the seven candidates for president are here today. Senator Joseph Lieberman declined our invitation.


And our next candidate is former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Governor Dean. (Applause.)

Here comes the former governor of Vermont, Howard Dean. Governor Dean. (Applause.)

DR. DEAN: Thank you. Thank you.

MR. JOYNER: Governor Dean, you have 45 seconds to begin with an opening statement on poverty in America.

DR. DEAN: Luckily I'm a governor, so I get to tell you what I've already done, not just what I'm going to do. In my state, the minimum wage this time next year is going to be $7 an hour. That's the first thing to start to fight poverty.

Secondly, in my state, everybody under 18 years old has health insurance. All our working poor people under 150 percent of poverty have health insurance. Our seniors, one-third of them already have prescription benefits. That's what I want to do for the rest of this country. We are going to eliminate poverty in the United States of America in the next 20 years, and we're going to eliminate poverty for children in the United States of America by 2010. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: And Tom Joyner will introduce our family to you, Governor Dean.

MR. JOYNER: Okay, joining us right now is Keith Chen. Keith is a junior in high school. Studies show that -- (applause). You've got a fan club out there, Keith. (Laughter.) You won't raise it, I will! (Laughter.)

Keith Chen-Keith is a junior in high school. Studies show that children from the wealthiest American families are six times more likely to graduate from four-year college than those from the poorest families. Keith, what hurdles have you experienced to prepare for college?

MR. CHEN: I just want to say, good morning, Governor Dean. I come from New York city to speak to you about access to -- (cheers, applause) -- higher education. In my community, people struggle as the work two jobs trying to pay off college tuition. I believe this is true for almost every community in this country.

This is unfair, especially when, according to a government study, children from wealthy American families-they end up-they're likely to graduate from a four-year college more than those from poor families.

Basically, what I want to know is, are we in danger of creating a permanent class system in this country by making it even harder for poor young people to go to college.

DR. DEAN: The answer is, we are-as long as George Bush is president, we are going to create a permanent class system. We're going to change that as soon as we possibly can. (Applause.) What George Bush has done is given our money away to his friends, who run the biggest corporations in America and are paying for his reelection, and we're going to change that. (Applause.)

What George Bush is doing is making it impossible for people like you to go to college, and we're going to change that. Let me just tell you briefly how we're going to change it: For $7 billion, which is less than 10 percent of what we spend in Iraq every single year, you can make sure that you have an opportunity, and everybody else has an opportunity to go to college. Here's how it works: We're going to counsel every eighth grader and their parents to show them that money will be there -- $10,000 in grants and loans every year-for a four- year college or four-year post-high school technical education.

When you go to pay back the part that's loans, you will never pay back more than 10 percent of your income per year. At the end of ten years, your loan is done. If you go into public service-teaching, firefighting, police, nursing, the shortage areas-you will never pay back more than 7 percent of your income any given year, and at the end of ten years, your loans will have deemed to have been payed off. That is how every child in American can have a college education. (Cheers, applause.)

MR. STANTON: And Tom Joyner has our next family.

MR. JOYNER: Yes, joining Keith is Annamarie Archela (ph). Did I say it right?

Q Yes.

MR. JOYNER: Okay, tell us something about you, your story.

Q I also come from New York City. I'm a youth organizer and youth activist there. And what I see in our communities in my daily work is the effects of the increasing barriers to higher education. Tuition in private and public universities are increasingly. Financial aid is declining. Affirmative action is under attack. And as you might probably know, many immigrant students do not even have access to financial aid to attend higher education. So what I want to know is how do you specifically plan-and I know you answered some of these questions now-but how do you specifically plan to deal with the policies that are barring people from access to higher education, and are truly creating a divide between those who are able to access higher education because they have the income to pay for it, and those of us who are not able to access higher education?

DR. DEAN: I already explained how we are going to get rid of the financial barriers. Let's now explain how we are going to get rid of racial and ethnic barriers. We need affirmative action in this country. Let me explain why. (Applause.) Let me explain why. And we also need politicians like me, who will talk to white audiences about why we need affirmative action. (Applause.)

Let me tell you how I do this-and this is a true story. My chief of staff in 12 years as governor in Vermont was always a woman. And I noticed that after about three or four years my office was a matriarchy. (Laughter.) So one day the chief of staff came in, said she was going to hire a new person. I said, Well, you know we have a gender imbalance in this office. I don't get into the hiring around here, but I wonder if you could find a man. And she, without thinking what she was saying, she said, Well, governor, you're right, we have a gender imbalance. But it's very hard to find a qualified man. (Applause.)

Now, the point I'm trying to make is everybody does it. Everybody tends to hire people like themselves. There was a study in the Wall Street Journal that showed if you are white with a criminal record, you are more likely to get a second job interview, than if you are African American or Latino with a clean record. (Applause.) As long as that happens, we've got to talk about race, we've got to talk about African American in this country. And I think the leaders need to talk specifically to white audiences, because black audiences have heard a lot about it from white folks about racism. I don't think there's a lot more we can teach you about racism. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: And we have time for one short follow-up.

MR. JOYNER: With a one-minute response.

Q Okay. I just want to ask you specifically how much do you think you can do as a president, if you become a president, to increase access for immigrant students. Immigrant students are barred from accessing financial aid, and in many states forced to pay out-of- state tuition. How do you plan to address that?

DR. DEAN: The question is how do I address college education for immigrant students. First, we're going to-well, for all students I talked about, how we are going to do the money, $10,000 a year. But there is a clause right now that says that if you're an immigrant student, you may go through high school, you may graduate, but if you're not documented, then you state has no obligation to give you residential tuition rates. Now, that we've got to fix.

Let me just say one thing about-and we can fix it. It's just a matter of changing the law and having the federal government support students who graduate from high school going to college. Let me just say one thing about immigrants. Everybody please raise your hand if you have Native American blood in you. (Cheers.) Okay? Everybody else is an immigrant. (Laughter.)

Now, let me just say, Carol Moseley Braun, who ran for president-she dropped out. She endorsed me, which I appreciated.

MR. STANTON: You're out of time, governor.

DR. DEAN: She used to say one thing about this: You may have come on the Mayflower, you may have come on a slave ship, you may have come through Ellis Island-we are all in the same boat now. (Applause. Cheers.)

MR. STANTON: Governor, the next question, a health question: What would you propose, if attain mental health parity, particularly for children?

DR. DEAN: In my state we have mental health parity for everybody. It's the most far-reaching mental health bill in the country. You know, I am a fiscal conservative and a social progressive, and because I've saved money, we have been able to do a lot of these things that other states haven't done. I introduced the bill when I was a freshman in 1983. I signed it as governor in 1997. It treats mental diseases exactly the same way as everybody else's diseases. And we're going to do that in the whole country when I get to be president, with your help. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: Tom Joyner has the next question.

MR. JOYNER: This is an e-mail question from Cammie. Cammie writes: When are they going to do something about helping the single working mother out here who can't get child support from the child's father because he refuses to work or will not hold a job for more than three months? These are the same dads, she says, who are getting food stamps, health care and other governmental assistance. But because I want better for myself and kids, I work, and because I work I can't get any assistance to help my family.

DR. DEAN: Now, you have seen a lot of politicians come through here-they're all going to tell you what they're going to do. I'm going to tell you what we already did in my state. If you make $40,000 a year or less, you get help paying for your child care, whether you are a single mom or a parent. We want people to work in our state. A quarter of all the people who are on welfare in our state also work. We use that as a supplemental, so that every single family can have a basic minimum standard of living, feed their kids, get adequate child care. And I know we also have the highest percentage of child support collections in the country. But the solution to this-I understand we've got to collect more from dead- beat dads and all that. The real solution is to make it possible to raise a child on what you earn. And that means a minimum wage a lot higher than it is now. That means guaranteed health insurance for every American man, woman and child in America --

MR. STANTON: You need to wrap up.

DR. DEAN: -- just exactly the kinds of things we have already done in my state. (Applause.)

MR. STANTON: Governor Dean, the next question comes from one of our WIS-TV viewers here in Columbia. It's a question on tape.

Q (From videotape) We're losing a lot of jobs to other countries, and the people who are not skilled are having problems finding employment-not unless you have a specific skill that you have or a degree. Otherwise you're losing-there are a lot of labor jobs going abroad. So I'd be interested in knowing how would they turn that around.

DR. DEAN: I was in Georgetown, South Carolina, two or three weeks ago. Steel mill closed down -- 535 people out of work. One of the executives told one of the working people, you know, I used to vote Republican all the time, but I don't have any health insurance.

I'm a Democrat from here on out.

We need to change our trade agreements. Globalization and trade is not going to go away. The trouble is we've only globalized the rights of big corporations to do business in all those countries. We have not globalized workers' rights, human rights and environmental rights. And until we do, we are going to continue to lose jobs. (Applause.) We need to change our trade agreements, and we need not to get into any more trade agreements until we fix the ones we already have.

MR. STANTON: Governor Howard Dean, thank you very much for being part of our presidential forum.

DR. DEAN: Thank you very much, I appreciate it. (Applause. Cheers.) I need your help on February 3rd! I need your vote.

MR. STANTON: And our Democratic Presidential Candidates Forum, a Dialogue with American Families, will continue after this short break.


MR. STANTON: And welcome back. And this is our Dialogue With American Families. We're talking with the Democratic presidential candidates. And let me mention again the format that we are using for this program. Tom Joyner is going to be introducing the families. He will be talking with them, getting their stories. And then the families will ask the candidates question. The candidates will have a minute and a half to answer two questions from the families, and then they'll have one minute to answer a follow-up question, and then after that Tom and I will each have questions for the candidates from Tom's radio listeners, from our WIS-TV viewers. And we will pose those questions to the candidates also.

And we will remind you of course that South Carolina's primary, the first in the South, is coming up next Tuesday on February 3rd. The polls are going to be open from 7:00 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening here in South Carolina.

Copyright 2004 Federal News Service, Inc.

(remainder apparently inadvertently omitted by Project Vote Smart)

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