DETROIT – GWEN IFILL: Welcome back to the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan, for the Democratic presidential candidates' debate.
We are joined by about 3,000 invited guests here in what's been called the gem of Detroit, the beautiful and historic Fox Theatre.
On stage are the nine people who want to be the Democratic nominee for president.
We're going to begin round three of questions, with the emphasis shifting to domestic issues. And Carl Cameron begins the questioning.
CARL CAMERON: This one for you, Ambassador Braun, a question about jobs, manufacturing in particular. Here in Detroit, there's been a great loss of manufacturing jobs, a problem that most of the Democrats have complained about during the course of this campaign.
In the context of trade, Ambassador, it has been embraced by Republican and Democratic presidents alike, that those jobs that may go overseas as a consequence of trade can be replaced through job training. Apparently it isn't working.
So what's the solution? Should we pull back on our international trade deals?
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN: I think the first thing we have to do is make certain that the globalization of trade does not create a race to the bottom, that creates the exploitation of workers abroad and the hemorrhaging of jobs here at home.
We have an absolutely responsibility...
... an absolute responsibility to see to it that our country retains a vital and robust manufacturing base, because manufacturing is central to our ability to create goods for the rest of the world.
And in so doing, that's going to require a number of things. We need to take a look at the tax code and the way it works to impair the ability of people to manufacture.
But my big issue on manufacturing and what we can do to help is health-care reform. If we can take the burden...
... of health care off of our manufacturers, if we can take the burden of health care off our small business, have a single-payer system of health care that will give coverage to every American...
... that will go a long way to building up our manufacturing base and resolving some of our trade deficit issues.
CAMERON: Thank you, Ambassador.
Continuing on with trade, Congressman Gephardt, as the former House Democratic leader, perhaps amongst the entire tableau of candidates here, you're best known for your opposition to a variety of trade deals.
And for that, you've been branded by some of your opponents as a protectionist and an isolationist that would do damage to the U.S. economy as a consequence. Why is that unfair?
RICHARD GEPHARDT: Well, it's not only unfair, it's dead wrong. I have a plan to get this economy moving again, to create jobs in this society and to get us into a place where we're creating jobs again, as we did in 1993 when I led the fight for the Clinton economic program. We did it. Remember? 22 million new jobs in this country.
I've got a health-care plan to get everybody covered with health care. I want to give manufacturing incentives to manufacturers to stay in the United States. I want to raise the minimum wage, one of the smartest things we did during the Clinton administration.
And I've got ideas on energy and on pensions and on lots of important issues.
But let me say this about trade, the one area where I disagreed with President Clinton was on trade.
All the candidates now -- John Kerry, John Edwards, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman -- now say they would never sign a treaty like NAFTA in China that doesn't have proper protections for labor and environment.
I was against those treaties when it counted. It's easy to say now that we shouldn't have done that, but when the treaties were in front of the Congress, they voted for them.
We need a new trade policy that's optimistic, that raises up standards in other countries. We've got to stop the exploitation of workers across this world. We need consumers, not just producers.
HUEL PERKINS: Senator Edwards, I don't know if you've had a chance to see the city of Detroit, but this city is a symbol of the promise and the problems facing this nation.
And the people here realize that foreign issues are very important, but they also want to know how is it that Washington -- the president and Congress -- can find $87 billion to rebuild Iraq...
... and not find enough money to rebuild American cities?
Money for its schools, its roads, the urban areas.
What is your urban agenda? What are your priorities?
JOHN EDWARDS: Well, we've lost over a million jobs in urban America just last year alone. People are struggling and hurting.
I have a plan called -- I've written it down -- called Cities Rising. The idea is to first bring jobs to urban America. Let's create incentives for new businesses to start there, incentives for existing businesses to locate their plant and facilities there. And not just jobs -- good-paying jobs, with good benefits, with access to health care.
Second, to do something about the shame of having two public school systems in America, one for the haves and one for the have- nots.
We have a responsibility to do something about that. This president's never going to do anything about it.
What I want to do is this. First, lead a national initiative to pay teachers better. Second...
... give bonus pay to teachers who will teach in schools in less- advantaged areas. Give scholarships to young people who are willing to teach in these schools.
And last but not least, we need to empower people and create wealth for things like homeownership. People who live in urban areas deserve a decent place to live, in addition to health care and education.
PERKINS: Senator Lieberman, a famous talk-show host admits his addiction to prescription drugs.
He goes off for treatment. There are addicts who have also admitted that they have a problem. They're behind bars right now. There seems to be a disparity...
... real or perceived, a disparity. But it seems that if you're rich and famous, you go to rehab, but if you're poor and unknown, you go to jail.
How will you change the perceived mistreatment, or real mistreatment, of people in the medical and legal fields?
JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: This is a very important question, and it's time for a change on this.
Let's first acknowledge that there is a real problem here. This is not just rhetoric. Just this past week, I read in the newspapers of a study done in the state of Maryland that showed something like 90 percent of the people in Maryland jails for drug-related charges are African-American. Now, that's a miscarriage of justice. There's just no rationale as to why that number would be so much larger than the African-American population in the state of Maryland.
I believe in a system of justice. I believe, as I presume and I know everyone here does, that people have to be held accountable for crimes. But the system of justice must be fair.
Too many people are in jail today for nonviolent drug offenses. They are costing our country, their states, their families, their neighborhoods an enormous amount. We need to commit ourselves to turn this around and invest in rehabilitation, invest in some of the causes of crime like education, job training.
The fact is, when I am president, I am going to fix this problem. I am going to not have John Ashcroft at the Justice Department. I'm going to have an attorney general who will work to see that there is justice that is fair.
I say one final word, and it says it all. Reverend Jackson was in Connecticut some years ago, and he talked about this problem. And he said, you know, it costs more to keep a young African-American in jail than to send that same young man through Yale. That's what we ought to be doing.
IFILL: Thank you, Senator.
General Clark, this week you introduced your economic plan in which you said that you would save $2.3 trillion in 10 years by repealing part of President Bush's tax cuts and cutting waste.
But you did not tell us how you would and when you would balance the budget, this budget deficit that you have said is so corrosive. Want to tell us now?
WESLEY CLARK: Well, I'm happy to talk about this. I think that what you've got right now in this country is a real absence of responsible government. This government has lost its bearings.
They came to office with no policies except tax cuts. And they were tax cuts for the wealthy. They said tax cuts would help us. They said tax cuts would bring us jobs; they didn't. They said they'd fix Social Security; they didn't.
This government doesn't have a policy. What we need to do is work on America's needs, and to do that, we need to recapture some of the revenues that were given away in those Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, those making over $200,000 a year...
IFILL: But, General...
CLARK: ... and then we need to use them...
IFILL: Forgive me for interrupting, because I would really like for you to be more specific, in the time you have left, about exactly how you would do that.
CLARK: I'm going to give you that answer right now.
What you've got to do is you've got to put this country on a path to fiscal responsibility. That's why I gave the plan of recapturing $2.3 trillion.
I don't have a date to balance the budget, because I think it's important to use some of that money that's recaptured to meet America's urgent needs in education, health care and Social Security. That's what I'm going to do with that money. We're going to use it more wisely, more effectively and be more responsible than this administration's been.
CAMERON: Congressman Kucinich, when would you balance the budget?
And on tax cuts, there is a debate amongst you who are debating. Some would repeal all of the Bush tax cuts, others would repeal some but leave them in place. To repeal the Bush tax cuts, is that a tax hike on those who've seen a reduction?
DENNIS KUCINICH: No, actually the tax cuts that go to people in the top brackets ought to be repealed and ought to be put into a fund to provide for universal college education, free tuition for the 12 million American students who are currently attending public colleges and universities.
Now, this administration, if it moves toward budget balancing, will inevitably balance it on the backs of the American people.
My economic strategy would be to fuel growth in the economy by having a full-employment economy, by working to rebuild our cities with a massive new WPA-type program.
My economic policies will work toward universal health care, which will inspire further growth in the economy; universal pre- kindergarten, which will enable parents to be able to have their children ages 3, 4 and 5 for a five-day-a-week child-care program, saving families between $5,000 and $7,000 per child.
KUCINICH: My economic program will include the cancellation of NAFTA and the WTO and return to bilateral trade, condition (ph) on workers' rights, human rights and the environment.
My economic program will address things like this: the sale of United States steel assets to foreign countries which are undermining our ability to defend our economy and to defend our national security.
IFILL: OK, Carl?
CAMERON: Reverend Sharpton, along the lines of budget politics, it's fairly evident that all of you up there would prefer to see the wealthiest Americans shoulder a greater part of the burden.
What sacrifice would you put upon averaging working families to carry their share of the burden in the coming Sharpton economy?
AL SHARPTON: First of all, I think that the average working family is already sharing their part of responsibility, Carl.
I think that when you look at an economy and when you look at an administration that has led toward deregulation, when we not only have the top-level income-bracket people paying less percentage-wise of taxes, you have businesses that can form offshore companies, paying no tax at all, to lecture working-class, average, middle-class Americans on how they can do more when you have the Enrons of the world operating offshore, doing nothing, I think is an insult to the intelligence of the American people.
We are bearing our responsibilities.
In fact, it is on our backs that you are being able to do what you've been able to do. We've been the ones that have beared the brunt of the American economy. We just have not shared from the prosperity.
It is an insult to keep telling Americans to send our children to war is an honor, to risk their lives to die for the country, but it's a burden for the rich to pay their taxes to the country.
IFILL: Thank you, Reverend.
PERKINS: Governor Dean, you may say "amen" if you feel so inclined.
HOWARD DEAN: I am very sorry to have to speak after Brother Al. I was afraid this was going to happen.
PERKINS: But we are now facing the biggest budget deficit in history. You have promised that you would balance the budget by your second term.
Is Medicare on the table? Is Medicaid on the table?
DEAN: Medicare is not on the table. I'm a strong supporter of Medicare. It's a sound contract between the seniors of this country and Lyndon Baines Johnson.
The rest of our Social Security is not on the table. I'm a strong supporter of Social Security. And those programs need not be cut.
We can balance the budget. But if those programs are in trust funds and the trust funds are reasonably solvent -- Medicare until 2023, Social Security until about 2043 -- what you need to do is get rid of every dime of the Bush tax cuts.
Some up here say we should keep the middle-class tax cuts. What middle-class tax cuts? On the average, 60 percent of the people in this country got a $304 tax cut. One percent, which are rapidly writing $2,000 checks to George Bush, got a $26,300 tax cut.
And in the meantime, think of what's happened to your college tuition or your kids' college tuition. What about your property tax? Has that gone up more than $304 in the last 2 1/2 years
We need to get rid of every dime of the president's tax cuts, begin to start balancing the budget and restore things like Pell grants and full funding of special education...
... so we can pay to have a good college education and balance the budget.
IFILL: Excuse me just one moment. Did you say Medicaid was off the table, as well?
DEAN: I'm sorry, what?
IFILL: Did you say Medicaid was off the table, as well?
DEAN: Well, I plan to add $87 billion to Medicaid so we can have universal health insurance for everybody.
PERKINS: Senator Kerry, your plan to balance the budget?
JOHN KERRY: Well, let me just say that, last week in Iowa, Governor Dean said that entitlements were on the table. Now, if he just took Social Security and Medicare off the table, the question is, what entitlements are on the table? Veterans' pensions, food stamps, Medicaid, Social -- disability? He can't answer that question.
Now, I'm going to do exactly what Bill Clinton did. I'm going to cut the deficit in half in the first four years. Bill Clinton's plan was to balance the budget in 10 years, not the five Governor Dean says.
The reason we decided not to do it in five was because it required extraordinary cuts in the things we just talked about doing: investing in the city of Detroit, investing in our schools, investing in health care, making our economy move.
When Governor Dean just said, "What middle-class tax cut," let me tell him what middle-class tax cut.
The Burnett (ph) family in Colfax, Iowa, earned $70,000. But under his plan, they are going to pay $2,178 more in taxes because they lose the child credit to raise their children, they pay a penalty for being married again because he puts it back, and they lose the 10 percent bracket, as everybody else here does. So you begin to be taxed at 15 percent, not 10 percent.
Those aren't Bush Republican cuts, those are the Democrat cuts that we worked hard to put in place to protect the middle class.
Bill Clinton protected the middle class; we grew the economy. If you liked Bill Clinton's economy for eight years, you're going to love John Kerry's for the first four years.
PERKINS: Thank you, Senator Kerry.
And on that note, we are going to go for another commercial break, and we'll be right back with more of the debate.