PORTSMOUTH If elected president, Michael Bennet has a very specific idea on how hed break the logjam of partisanship, and it involves a calculator.
Among his first acts, the Democratic U.S. senator from Colorado said he would seek to undo the 2017 tax cut orchestrated by President Donald Trump that Bennet said gave 54 percent of the benefits to the top 5 percent of earners.
He said he would replace it with a plan that would cut childhood poverty by 40 percent and give the middle class what he called a real tax cut.
Then, he said, hed find a Republican leaning county, and hed sit at a table with a group of farmers, and, with calculators in hand, hed go line by line on how his tax cut would benefit them.
What I would say to them is: I’m bringing my calculator because unlike some of the people running for president I’m actually enumerate, and I know how enumerate you guys are because of my work on the ag committee for last 10 years, and we’re going to sit here with those calculators and you’re going to see how you benefit from what I’m proposing and how your family benefits from what I’m proposing versus what Donald Trump has done, said Bennet. And by the way, I’ll bring the Fox News guys, because theyll have an open invitation too, and if they don’t bring a calculator I’ll give it to them.
Bennet is one of several Democratic candidates on the first-in-the-nation presidential primary election ballot here in the Granite State on Tuesday, Feb. 11. He sat down Sunday with members of the Seacoast Media Group editorial board.
Bennet said he is the only candidate in the field who has won a statewide election in a swing-state, noting Colorado is a third Republican, a third Democratic, and a third independent. Hillary Clinton carried the state over Trump in the 2016 election.
Bennet was appointed to the U.S. Senate by the governor in 2009 when the incumbent senator, Ken Salazar, went to work for the Barack Obama White House as interior secretary. Bennet was elected to a full six-year term in 2010, then was reelected in 2016.
Partisan gridlock, he noted, is rooted in the Citizens United decision by the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, gerrymandering as a function of congressional redistricting, the rise of social media, and rise of the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus, calling members of the latter tyrants, who, to use the language that the founders would have used, have immobilized our exercise in self-government.
Theyre the reason that we cant even pass a budget, said Bennet.
Bennet knows that if he wins the nomination hell need the votes of Republicans and independents to unseat Donald Trump come November. He noted that nine million voters, who supported Obama for the first time in 2008, then again in 2012, voted for Trump in 2016.
Its not enough for us to galvanize the Democratic base we cant win by doing that. We can only win by galvanizing the Democratic base and by winning back some of the nine million people that voted twice for Barack Obama and once for Donald Trump, and thats why Ive developed the agenda Ive developed, said Bennet.
My specific idea to run for president on an agenda that I can defend in red parts of the state and blue parts of the state, he added.
His cabinet would include Republicans as well as Democrats, what he described as the highest quality, most diverse.
Bennet responded to questions related to mortality rates, health care, climate change, and the budget deficit that were based on reader input to the editorial board.
On the nations mortality rate, with studies showing a declining life expectancy rate because of the high incidences of drug addiction and suicides, Bennet said the issue is symptomatic of an economic policy.
I think it starts with a feeling of economic despair and a sense that people no matter how hard they work, they can’t get ahead, and a lack of investment by America in America, said Bennet.
He favors a universal health plan, administered by Medicare, that allows people who want it to keep their private insurance. The lack of transparency in the expense of medical procedures and prescription drugs is a big reason medical costs are climbing at a rate that twice as fast as any industrialized nation. Opacity has been a business model in the healthcare industry for generations and we have to change that. And I think that if we put a price tag on everything in our healthcare system that alone would drive down costs, he said.
Of all the items in what he called a long list of particulars that the younger generation might have against the older generation (college costs, infrastructure disrepair), Bennet believes lack of action on climate change is at the top. What theyre really going to string us up for is climate because in their view if we dont get started on this it will be too late for them to do it, he said.
He advocates clean technologies developed and put into place here in the United States that can also be exported to other countries. He wants to work with the agriculture industry on carbon farming, which is a broad set of agricultural practices across a variety of farm types that result in increased storage of atmospheric carbon in the soil and less release into the atmosphere. His campaign calls for a Climate X Option to require utilities to provide zero-emission energy to every household and business, a new national conservation initiative and a Climate Bank to spur private investment. A net-zero goal would require any greenhouse gas emissions to be offset by reforestation or other techniques.
Any plan for climate change has to include an economic element, that it would benefit, not hurt the economy, according to Bennet, an argument Trump used in his favor in 2016.
How in the world did this climate denier end up in the White House? He did because he won the economic argument, said Bennet. And he won an argument that said: If you deal with climate change you will destroy the American economy. If you ignore climate change the economy’s going to do great. And he’s persisted in making that argument throughout his presidency.
Improvements to the health system and raising the income threshold for withholding taxes will help Medicare and Social Security, respectively, thus helping reduce the national debt, according to Bennet. Hes been critical of the spending not supported by revenue of primary opponents Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. He said he is the recipient of recognition for fiscal responsibility from the Fix the Debt organization that, in August 2019, singled out Bennet and five other senators (including presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota) for voting against the 2017 budget and tax cuts, what the organization called a reckless deal.
As Bennet counts down the days to the primary and as he seeks to fulfill his goal of having 50 town halls in New Hampshire (he was at 38 as of the end of the weekend), he and other senators in the race are jurors in the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Trump.
Bennet has a long list of grievances against Trump and his presidency from climate change to foreign policy, calling him the weakest foreign policy president of our lifetime.
I think he has contempt for the American people, said Bennet.
But he said he will fulfill his constitutional duty as an impartial juror during the trial days ahead, though he said he has no illusions that the Republican majority is likely to acquit Trump.
I take that very seriously. I think this is a moment for the American people to consider what kind of standard of conduct we expect out of our elected officials, including the president, to consider how important the rule of law is to this society and how close we are to potentially losing that rule of law, said Bennet.