Only candidate talking about mental health and drug abuse crisis
Article and photos by Ramona du Houx
“We can raise incomes again — because that is the single most important issue we face. People have to feel that their work has been rewarded. Prosperity has to be broadly shared,” said Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in the 2016 presidential race during a campaign town-hall style event in Portland, Maine.
The King Middle School event of 400 supporters had an overflow of participants who watched on monitors in an adjoining room. Those who had stood in line by 2pm, for the 4pm event, sat comfortably in a semicircle surrounding Clinton as she outlined her comprehensive agenda — mainly focused on incomes and job growth for the middle class and low-income earners.
She said the way in which to achieve that growth is with Democrats, “Our country does better, our economy does better, when there is a Democrat in the White House ... They [Republicans] want to return to the failed politics of trickle-down economics. They want to make it easier for the super-rich, and corporations to have their way. That didn’t work for America before.”
Former President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama had to fix huge economic and government structural problems they inherited.
She said that as First Lady she witnessed how her husband dealt with an exploding national debt and deficit, “After eight years we had 23 million new jobs. Everyone’s income went up … that’s how it should be. We are supposed to be building prosperity for all not just for a few.”
Former President G. W. Bush gave big tax cuts for the wealthy and waged two wars that were not paid for by Congress. When the Great Recession hit, Obama saved America from a depression, as the country “was loosing 800,000 jobs per month. I don’t think President Obama gets the credit he deserves for keeping us from falling even further,” said Clinton. “The recovery is proceeding, but we haven’t finished what we need to do.”
To stimulate the economy Clinton intends to:
“Create millions of clean-energy jobs and millions of new businesses and companies to help combat climate change … By the end of my first term, we will have installed half a billion more solar panels. By the end of my second term, I want us to have enough clean energy to power every single home in America.”
The model for this clean-energy economic growth is under way in Iowa, where 30 percent of the state’s energy is produced from wind power. Maine was on the way to be an energy exporter under the Baldacci administration. Those plans have stalled with Gov. Paul LePage but can easily be reenergized, for the groundwork has been done.
“I’m very impressed with her economic message: The focus on renewable, clean-energy jobs and being able to become energy independent,” said former Governor John Baldacci. “She talked about how Tom Vilsack [United States Secretary of Agriculture] in Iowa helped create clean-energy jobs. It’s not just about the wind power generated. It’s about building the turbine parts and components — about creating industry. That’s exactly what we were trying to do — to make Maine a center of production. Not just to erect windmills — to manufacture them here. The more Maine could become a center of that excellence, for the parts and knowledge, the more our manufacturing would become sought after around the country and world. The goal was to create industries and work towards energy independence. That’s what Tom Vilsack has done in Iowa. I’d like to see us do it here.”
Hillary Clinton being welcomed by Mainers in Portland with Gov. John Baldacci. Photo R. du Houx
Clinton’s economic policies promote fairness and equality. They would also:
- Raise the minimum wage. “It’s not possible for a family to live on what someone makes on a minimum wage,” she said.
- Close various loopholes that the financial service sectors use that only benefit those institutions.
- Make sure equal pay “equals equal work,” she said to a standing ovation.
- Give incentives to business models that are more inclusive with their workforce like what happened with Market Basket. She referred to a 2014 story about how people stood up to a corporation in order to save the community-based food supermarket, and won.
- Strengthen collective bargaining. “Unions helped to build the middle class in America. You can chart declining incomes with the decline of organized labor,” she said.
“Her message is very strong. She’s a fighter. She’s going to fight for working families. She’s going to measure their success by the increase in revenues for working families not by the rise in pay for CEOs and hedge fund managers,” said Gov. Baldacci.
“She understands better than any of the other candidates how to build this nation up. You don’t build it from the top down, but you build it from the bottom up. You empower people with a higher minimum wage, educational opportunities, and quality affordable health care for all citizens, while making sure we protect Social Security and Medicaid/Medicare. She’s going to strengthen families, which strengthens communities and their states. She’ll strengthen the nation from the ground up. That’s how you do it."
Her mother’s experience of being abandoned by her parents and sent off to live with relatives who didn’t want her, while she still managed to graduate high school, working as a housekeeper, has inspired Clinton throughout her life to champion the needs of children.
With 80 percent of the human brain developed before the age of three, research has shown the importance of early childhood education.
Hillary wants to ensure that very child gets universal pre-kindergarten and early childhood education. She related a story about how, as a grandmother, every little thing your grandchild achieves seems amazing and something to celebrate. But Clinton worries, “What kind of country will be waiting for her? Every child should be given the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential.”
Clinton plans start apprentice programs based on a model already underway in Germany. “We would offer a tax credit to companies that offer apprenticeship programs … We need to rebuild opportunity ladders in America,” she said.
Another equally important education issue she would tackle is student college debt, which is more than all of America’s credit-card debt. “Too many are shut out of college because of the cost. Or when they get out they can’t pay their debt. I want to refinance student debt — to lower the cost,” she said.
Healthcare and public safety issues—
She will work to make the Affordable Care Act stronger.
Clinton stressed she wants to do something about how we handle long-term care in America. Most people want to be able to take care of their loved ones in the home but can’t afford to do so. “It’s a pressing and growing problem,” said Hillary.
During the campaign, she has heard more about mental health issues and how too often they are connected to substance-abuse problems. In 2013 there were more overdose deaths in the United States than people who died in car accidents.
“I think it’s one of the most important health issues we face … We are supposed to be treating mental health the same as physical health. But we aren’t … it’s not right,” she emphasized. “All too often mental health issues lead directly to substance abuse … I did not think I’d be talking about substance abuse in my presidential campaign until I started campaigning. Everywhere I go, people ask me, ‘What are you going to do about the heroin epidemic?’”
Clinton said she would provide more support and resources to deal with heroin and opioid addiction, including outfitting law enforcement officers with the anti-overdose drug Narcan.
She referenced a packed town hall of 700 people that she'd held specifically focused on the substance abuse crisis that is happening across America. It was the issue residents in New Hampshire wanted to hear about the most.
“She’s listening to what people are saying. She’s the only candidate talking about the lack of mental health, and problems with substance and drug abuse. She’s connected at the grass-roots level,” said Baldacci.
“Ever since she was First Lady and introduced health-care reform, she proved to me and the country that she was in it for the people. She proposed legislation for the country, and that to me showed tremendous courage as a First Lady. She can foresee problems of the country like she did with health-care reform 30 years ago, which shows she can be ahead with policies for the future,” said Joanna Gilbert of Brunswick. “I owe it to her to volunteer.”
Recently, Republicans in Congress have stated they will not fund Planned Parenthood, an organization that helps with women’s health issues like cancer screenings, as well as family planning.
“I will defend civil rights, human rights … starting with a women’s right to choose. The fact that Republicans have threatened to shut down the U.S. government over this issue sends a message to the world that we can’t govern ourselves,” said Clinton, while stating the fact that the federal government does not fund abortions.
With a strong, resounding voice, she finished listing the other issues she would defend, like marriage equality and voting rights. “Every 18-year-old should be automatically enrolled to vote.”
She made it crystal clear she would fight against "Citizen’s United," which has turned elections into fundraising campaigns. “Even if I have to put forward a constitutional amendment.”
She also wants to put an end to “an era of mass incarceration.”
Concerning the rights of Americans, the next president will most likely be tasked with the appointment of U.S. Supreme Court justices. “The next president may get three or four justices, who I hope will care more about a citizen’s right to vote than a millionaire’s right to buy an election,” said Clinton.
International experience no other candidate has—
Clinton has been instrumental with her diplomacy as secretary of state. “There’s no substitute for diplomacy,” she said.
One example was when Clinton had to bring together a coalition of nations to put together the sanctions against Iran. She convinced Russia, China and others not to buy Iranian oil, to ensure the sanctions worked.
“When she was working to develop the sanctions against Iran, she had to go and meet and work with old enemies of America: Russia and China. She’s been building coalitions on an international level. She’s done work as a U.S. senator from New York, developing policies that impact New York and the country, working with Republicans, Independents and Democrats. She’s a coalition builder,” said Baldacci. “That’s how you accomplish goals in D.C. She knows what she is doing; she’s been a tough negotiator around the world. I couldn’t think of a better person to become president. She’s the best candidate in the field.”
Clinton said she’s determined to build a better world for her granddaughter. “You should not have to be the granddaughter of a former president to achieve your hopes and dreams.”
The Clinton campaign’s low-profile events continue to give her an opportunity to connect with her supporters better, so she can really listen to their concerns, which have become major components to her platform. It is, in many ways, a return to grass-roots politics and was refreshing and energizing for those who came.
“It wasn’t just a stump speech,” said Maine Sen. Stanley Gerzofsky. “She’s been listening. She knows 'It Takes a Village,'” referencing the book Mrs. Clinton wrote about how change happens from the grass roots by strengthening families and communities.