Presidential Candidates Address La Raza in San Diego

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By E. A. Barrera

Obama Talks Health, Education, and Announces Plan to
Help Small Business

Barack Obama at NCLR
Barack Obama

Senator and presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama
spoke to delegates at the National Council of La Raza’s 40th annual
convention. The convention was held in San Diego at the Convention Center
over the weekend of July 11-14. Obama - the community organizer from
Chicago who was raised by a single mother in Hawaii, spoke of change
and hope and said a fundamental new direction in priorities was vital
for the next presidential administration.

“Change doesn't happen just because someone in Washington says
it should,” said Obama to wild applause from a crowd mostly young
and liberal.. “Change starts when you teach a child to read, or
register someone to vote, or help a family buy their first home. It starts
when you heal broken bodies and troubled spirits; when you organize neighborhoods
into coalitions, and workers into unions. It starts when you send leaders
to Washington committed to taking this country in a new direction.”

The Illinois Senator - who’s father was an African from Kenya
and mother a Caucasian from Kansas - told delegates he was an organizer
like them and understood how long social and cultural change can take
to happen when dealing with people unaccustomed and uncomfortable to
changing times.

“After college, I moved to Chicago and went to work for a group
of churches to help families that had been devastated when the local
steel plants closed down. I knew change in those communities wouldn't
come easily - but I also knew it wouldn't come at all if we didn't start
bringing people together,” said Obama. “So I reached out
to community leaders - black, brown, and white - and formed coalitions
on issues ranging from failing schools to illegal dumping to un-immunized
children. We set up job training for the jobless, helped prevent students
from dropping out of school, and taught people to stand up to their government
when it wasn't standing up for them.”

Obama said the educational system in the United States needed broad
re-working and wasn’t serving the poor, regardless of nationality
or color when “a child in a crumbling school graduates without
learning to read or doesn't graduate at all. Or when a young person at
the top of her class - a young person with so much to offer this country
- can't attend a public college“ due to costs.

He blasted the Bush administration for their failure to improve the
nation‘s public school system and vowed to make that his top domestic
priority after national health care.

“This election is … about … students who are dropping
out of school faster than nearly anyone else, and the children who attend
overflowing classes in under-funded schools taught by teachers who aren't
getting the support they need,” said Obama. “They're counting
on us to invest in early childhood education, stop leaving the money
behind for No Child Left Behind, recruit an army of new teachers; and
make college affordable for anyone who wants to go. Because that's how
we'll give every American the skills to compete in the global economy,
and all our children the chance to live out their dreams.”

Obama linked the issues of healthcare with veterans benefits and increasing
the number of small businesses in the United States. He said the nation
needed to help working women who were unable to afford programs such
as childcare while they worked or after school programs. 

“Women forced to lose their wages or quit their jobs to care for
a newborn baby or an elderly parent … they're counting on us to
help them make a living while raising their kids - to fight for equal
pay for equal work, and for childcare, family leave and sick leave, because
here in America, there should be no second class citizens in our workplaces.”

He said veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan who had trouble
finding proper health care and housing was “a disgrace.“

“This election is about the veterans … who've served this
country so bravely, but then come home to face new battles with the bureaucracy
at the (Department of Veterans Affairs) or the deplorable conditions
at places like Fort Bragg and Walter Reed (military hospitals),” said
Obama. “And we've all walked by a veteran whose home is now a cardboard
box on a street corner. It's a disgrace. These American heroes are counting
on us to build a 21st century VA; to provide the benefits and health
care they've earned, including mental health care; and to ensure that
no one who has served this country ever has to sleep on the streets.”

He said small business owners also suffered from the current health
system, which he said crippled them as they tried  “to stay
afloat because of the rising cost of insuring their employees.”

“I'll take on the drug and insurance companies, cut costs, guarantee
health insurance for anyone who needs it and make it affordable for anyone
who wants it,” said Obama who then announced his plan to make health
insurance more affordable for small business owners.

“We know that small businesses are the engines of economic prosperity
in our communities. Under my plan, if you're a small business that wants
to provide health care to your employees, we'll give you a tax credit
to make it affordable. My plan won't impose any new burdens on small
businesses. Instead, we'll help them not just create new jobs, but good
jobs - jobs with health care; jobs that stay right here in America; the
kind of jobs we need in our communities.”

McCain Emphasizes Tax Issues, Trade with Latin America


John McCain at NCLR

John McCain

Republican Presidential candidate John McCain’s address to delegates
at the 40th annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, the
Arizona Senator noted that more than 400,000 people had lost their jobs
since December, and the rate of new job creation has fallen sharply.

“Americans are worried about the security of their current job,
and they're worried that they, their kids and their neighbors may not
find good jobs and new opportunities in the future. To make matters worse,
gas is over $4 a gallon and the price of oil has nearly doubled in the
last year. The cost of everything from energy to food is rising.”

McCain said his economic platform was based on the philosophy that taxes
were too high and lowering taxes would stimulate the economy.

“Let's start with small businesses, which create the majority
of all jobs. A recent report says small businesses have created 233,000
jobs so far this year while other sectors are losing jobs. Small businesses
are the job engine of America, and I will make it easier for them to
grow and create more jobs,“ said McCain. “The first consideration
we should have when debating tax policy is how we can help those companies
grow and increase the prosperity of the millions of American families
whose economic security depends on their success.”

The Republican senator said it was “a terrible mistake to raise
taxes during an economic downturn“ and that raising the taxes impeded
job growth, discouraged innovation and weakened competitiveness in the
world economy.

“The many small business owners who pay individual tax rates would
take strong exception to the idea that keeping them low helps no one
but the wealthiest Americans. Taking more money from small businesses
deprives them of the capital they need to invest and grow and hire. Jobs
are the most important thing our economy creates. When you raise taxes
in a bad economy you eliminate jobs,” added McCain.

McCain said he would double the child deduction from $3500 to $7000
for every dependent, and reduce the estate tax to fifteen percent. He
spoke of the current loan default crises by praising La Raza as an organization
for running what he said was one of the largest housing counseling programs
in the country. He said La Raza had helped tens of thousands of Latinos
become homeowners with secure mortgages.

“But millions of Americans have been hurt by the mortgage crisis
and falling home values, and many in the Hispanic community have been
especially hard hit. I want to help people who genuinely need assistance
in these tough times, not speculators and lenders who contributed to
this mess and didn't follow the basics of good business practice. I am
committed to making sure families who want to hold onto their home have
a chance to do so,” said McCain.

He said his plan would allow families to apply at a local Post Office
or online for a “guaranteed, fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage that
will allow them to remain in their home, and raise their family with

McCain expressed strong support for international trade and opening up
markets to Mexico and other Latin American nations.

“We can't build walls to foreign competition,” said McCain. “America
is the biggest exporter, importer, producer, manufacturer, and innovator
in the world. That's why I reject the false virtues of economic isolationism.
Any confident, competent country and its government should embrace competition
- it makes us stronger - not hide from our competitors and cheat our
consumers and workers.”

McCain said lowering barriers to trade created “more and better
jobs, and higher wages“ and kept inflation under control. He insisted
that ninety-five percent of the world's consumers lived outside the U.S.

“Our future prosperity depends on opening more of these markets,
not closing them,” said the Republican. “I recently traveled
to Colombia and Mexico because I understand how vitally important it
is to the prosperity and security of our country to strengthen our trade,
investment and diplomatic ties to other countries in our hemisphere.
I have often traveled over the years to Central and South America, and
I have learned our relationships there are as important, if not more
important, as any relationships we have in the world."

"It is the reason
why I'm an unapologetic supporter of NAFTA, the Central American Free
Trade Agreement, and the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, and why I believe
a hemispheric free trade agreement is a worthy and necessary goal whose
time has come,” said McCain.

E. A. Barrera has been writing on politics,
land use, arts and culture in San Diego since 1997. He has won six San Diego
Press Club awards for Journalism in the last three years. He is a life-long
resident of San Diego County. He is currently waiting for the Baltimore Orioles
to break out of their 11-season slump and regain their former glory.

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