Presidential candidate visits Rockford

Approximately 150 people filled the Unitarian Universalist Church in Rockford March 13 to hear U.S. Presidential candidate and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) deliver the message he hopes will shape the Democratic platform at this summer’s convention.

Kucinich told the audience he wants the Democratic Party to adopt his 10-point plan that calls for actions such as withdrawing from “unfair” trade agreements, repeal of the Patriot Act, establishment of a cabinet-level Department of Peace, national health care and investment in renewable energy.

The same day Kucinich was in Rockford and Chicago, his opponent, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), was in Quincy, Ill., calling for U.S. President George Bush (R) to agree to debate Kerry. Quincy was the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas presidential debates in 1860.

Even though Kerry has all but been named the Democrats’ presidential

candidate, Kucinich said he is still campaigning to acquire delegates in an effort to influence what issues are discussed when Bush and Kerry square off in the election this fall.

“This election has to be about relating to people’s practical aspirations of peace—for jobs, for health care, for retirement security,” Kucinich said. However, Kucinich, the former mayor of Cleveland, spent much of his 50-minute visit discussing issues regarding the Iraq war.

“We have to realize that we are slipping into a protracted conflict in Iraq, and there are great complications for every person in this room. Two hundred billion dollars will soon be spent for this misadventure. And where’s that money come from? It comes out of veteran benefits, it comes out of housing costs, healthcare, out of education, out of job creation programs. …

“We’re militarizing our society based on lies. We’re building up the Pentagon budget far past what’s necessary to defend this country, and what it amounts to is one big scam on the American people.

“We don’t have money for education, we don’t have money for health care, we don’t have money for jobs creation, and we don’t have money for veterans, but we have money for war and tax cuts for the wealthy. See, this debate in this election is not over,” Kucinich said.

Kucinich also said the time is ripe to reinstate the 30-year hiatus of the military draft. According to Kucinich, 40 percent of the troops serving in Iraq are National Guard and Reserve units.

Despite the high level of Guard and Reserve troops, Kucinich said since the U.S. invaded Iraq, the U.S. has an obligation to rebuild the country, which may take more than 10 years. Kucinich said the U.S. must act quickly to disengage from Iraq and “bring in U.N. peace keepers” to replace American soldiers.

Kucinich also severely criticized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for exploitation of workers’ wages and rights.

“What are all these free trade agreements about? Nothing but cheap labor. Corporations want cheap labor. …Why are unions being broken today across America? Cheap labor. Why do we keep losing jobs out of this country? Cheap labor. What’s labor about? Cheap labor—prison labor, cheap labor—child labor. …It’s all about cheap labor. …

“And these trade agreements let corporations pull it off because there’s no prohibitions. There’s no protection for a worker’s rights,” Kucinich said.

From trade agreements, Kucinich moved on to address health care co-payments and insurance premiums, which Kucinich said have increased more than 50 percent in the past three years.

“There’s a reason there’s 43 million Americans without health care—because it costs too much. …The insurance companies make money by not providing health care. …It’s a business. It rations health care based on the ability to pay.”

As an alternative, Kucinich proposed a bill that would provide health care coverage for all Americans. According to Kucinich, the U.S. spent about $1.6 trillion on health care last year, which equals about 15 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

If the $1.6 trillion were spent exclusively on health care rather than items such as for-profit health care executives’ salaries and perks, Kucinich said every American’s medical, dental, vision, mental health and long-term health care needs could be paid for through the redistribution of funds.

In closing, Kucinich said: “Elections have to be about more than a celebration of one political party’s triumph over another,” which is why he is still campaigning.

Kucinich had four delegates on the March 16 primary ballot including Allen Penticoff, Sue West, James Sabathne and Alyson Conn. Christopher Sims was an alternate delegate.

To view Kucinich’s 10-point plan and learn more about his campaign, visit:

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