TRANSCRIPT: Pete Buttigieg Marshalltown rally 4/17/2019

The following is a transcript of Pete Buttigieg’s rally in Marshalltown, IA, on 4/17/2019. If you’re just looking for the newsy bits, do a ctrl+f or command+f for:

  • “child care”

  • “Chinese”

  • “tax credit”


Thank you so much for coming. Thank you for hosting us in your home.

Thank you to Janine and the County Democrats. I believe that the County Democratic Committee Chairs, they're the unsung hero of politics. And so we're so thankful for the organizing work that you do.

And I'm just so appreciative of the chance to be with you and join you in your community. You know, we believe that when we have the right kind of message, it will resonate in communities of every kind, communities of every size, and we just feel the warmth of the welcome here, and are so thrilled to be able to share this time with you.

As you have seen this thing is taken off a little bit faster than [inaudible]. We are racing to catch up now with the attention, with the energy with the support, and with the interest that has come about. And what we see most of all, is that the very things that we were told were going to be obstacles for us have turned out to be what have helped us to catch on.

But first of all, the fact that I'm not somebody who is maybe a familiar established figure in Washington, it makes me a little less likely to be what you'd expect for running for President but turns out a lot of people would like to see Washington look more like our cities and our towns, and our best areas -- [cut off by applause]

It turns out that the idea of coming from the heartland -- even though that's maybe not what people are looking, are expecting from Democrats -- it's actually one of the things that's -- that's animating this campaign in this effort. It turns out that there is no law that says the heartland has to be any more conservative than the rest of the country.

And particularly because it’s communities like ours that this administration appealed with the message that suggest to us that the only way we can experience what they call greatness is by turning the clock back. And the reality is that greatness isn't going to come from dredging it up out of some impossible, again, that there's no such thing as an honest politics that is based on the word again -- that the only way that we can cultivate what makes America great is to look to the future and not be afraid of it.

The other thing that's really helped us out is that we have found the makings of a generational alliance of people of all ages, who are focused on the future and believe that it's time for a new generation to step forward in American leadership.

Coming from a generation who’s life choices and opportunities will be shaped and constrained by climate change, by the decisions that are being made fiscally right now, by basically taking out a loan on the future and expecting us to pay it, by allowing the economy to continue to become so unequal that our generation could be the first in American history to earn less than our parents, calls for us to do something different. And if nothing else, I represent something a little different than what we’ve been doing.

So we are going from coast to coast with a message of freedom, security, and democracy. And making sure people understand that ideas like freedom, security, and democracy do not belong to one political party.

But to the extent that one political party is taking them seriously, I would argue that when you actually look at where the policies that will deliver freedom, democracy, and security come from, that we're best positioned to do. That real freedom involves a lot more than just freedom from some regulation or from tax -- that real freedom means making sure that you have health care.

So there's -- you want to have the freedom to start a small business. That freedom means being able to make your own decisions about your own health. That freedom means be able to live the life of your choosing, and then good government tears down the obstacles to that life that you’re choosing.

It's not about how big government is or how small it is. It's about whether it's good or bad. And right now our government could be doing that.

Security is another one of those issues that cannot be allowed to be the property of a single political party. I gotta interrupt myself because I heard that there were some girls with blankets that had brought me cookies would that be -- thank you in advance for the cookies.

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Thank you. Sorry -- my eye. Hopefully you’re warm in there.

So look, security is a lot more complicated than just putting up a wall from sea to shining sea. We know. We know that security means paying attention to the real threats in the 21st century. Yes, there are threats from stateless terrorism. There are threats from from competition, from China, but there are also threats from cyber security. Can't put up a wall for cyber security. And there's threats from our climate. I mean, I don't need to lecture Marshalltown on what's at stake.

Climate and weather aren’t the same thing, but they are absolutely related. And when climate is changing, we are in danger. So let's call it what it is: climate security. A life and death issue that calls for serious answers.

Now let's talk about democracy. Because I don't believe will be able to do a good job delivering anything from climate change solutions to health care, unless we are able to repair our democracy. And our democracy is fraying at the seams.

In fact, you would argue the challenge of our time is whether in the 21st century, we're going to be able to tackle the issues before us with the current system that we've got. The good news about the system that we've got is it has this very elegant quality, and that is the ability to repair itself through amendments, through reforms, anything that it takes to make sure that our democracy serves us well. And that's why, we need, for example, to at risk of sounding a little simplistic, maybe elect our presidents in a system where we just kind of all the votes and then give it to the person that got the most votes.

But also we gotta make sure we stop the Supreme Court coming to be regarded as more and more political. And if that means a structural reform, let's do it, because that's why structural reforms around the table to begin with. Let's do whatever it takes to get money out of politics to draw our districts fairly so that we actually get to choose our politicians instead of politicians choosing their voters, which is how it works today.

I believe we can do that. I know we can do that, because we have such an amazing response wherever we go -- this message has landed. But we’re in April, so we're a long way from the caucuses, and I'm going to need a lot of help. I'm gonna need folks to be organizing, and even as we work to organize around here, we're counting on you to help organize yourselves around this message. And we're building a team. We're racing to do it, thankfully, because we had fantastic grassroots fundraising support, we have the means to really start building that up.

But, you know, we're just the skeleton, we're really counting on everybody here who cares about that message to spread the word and to build that up. So this is a house party. I don't want to have it be too much like a speech, the virtue of house parties is you get to -- we get to -- I thought we were going to fit in the living room, another good problem to have.

But I will -- I will listen closely and would love to take up whatever issues are important to you.

Just before we do, I want to introduce two people that I love. My mother is here with us. And the most popular member of our household, except perhaps our rescue pups, is Chasten. So with that, I’d love to hear anything on your mind and look forward to speaking with you.

Q: [question about TPP, but mostly inaudible over protester whispering “Yessssssssss,” through a PA system]

The promising thing about that program was it was designed to box out China. Now there were some issues with the way it was set up. And I think the reason there's so much mistrust around trade in our region, whether it's the industrial -- my part of the industrial Midwest or here -- is that we were told a lot of promises about the trade deals in the 90s and the 2000s that weren't counting.

And so I get the suspicion. I get why there's a sense that those promises were broken, but we can't respond to that by just putting up a wall around the status quo. We can't shut out the rest of the world. Because if we're not playing, if we're not trading, if we're not participating, if we're not involved, somebody else will be. And the Chinese model is being held up right now as perhaps more stable than the American model. I prefer the American model.

And if we want to make good on that we are going to have to participate in trade deals, we can argue about how to set the labor standards and how to make sure that they're responsible and how to make sure it's fair, and how to make sure that workers experience the growth, because what we learned the hard way in the 90s is the rising tide does not, in fact, lift all boats. But I do not believe we respond to that by saying no to every trade deal that comes about.

Q: [off-mic question about Medicare for All]

Yes, I look forward to reviewing it, but the principles you just laid out are all principles that I support. And if you didn't hear the question was about making sure that when it comes to cancer care, we have adequate research, we have people -- sorry -- we have people at the table -- trying to block the wind but not create feedback.

So we have the right kind of advocacy at the table. I am making sure that we have quality healthcare access for all. This is personal for us. We just lost my father to cancer earlier this year.

And one of the things that struck me was that -- for all the challenges we face -- we had also the benefit of the freedom to focus on what was right for our families, because we did not have to focus on whether it was going to bankrupt us, thanks to Medicare.

And it was a reminder about the freedom that is created through the right kinds of policies. Medicare brought us that freedom. And I want all Americans to experience that same freedom, which is why we -- I believe we need to take a version of Medicare and make it available as an option on the exchanges. We’ll call it Medicare for All and allow that to be a very natural glide path toward the Medicare for All environment that I think would be better for all Americans.

Q: [off-mic question about deficit]

Yeah, the question was about the deficit. It is not fashionable in Democratic circles to talk about that. But the reality is they matter. They especially matter from a generational perspective. And so we need to acknowledge that that unending deficits are unsustainable.

I'm old enough to remember when Republicans cared about deficits. Then they took power. And it turns out it's not quite as big a deal for them, as evidenced by the fact they blew a trillion dollar hole in the federal budget with tax cuts for people who didn't need them, and by and large, weren’t even asking for.

Right. So I would say there's what we know from economics is that there's two kinds of deficit spending. There's the kind that pays for itself, same as when you take out a loan to start a business or buy a home. And then there's the kind that doesn’t and forms of investment that pay for themselves from investment in quality childcare and early childhood education to investments in -- very good -- investments in in roads and infrastructure, to investments in healthcare. These investments have a return to the Treasury as well as to the people. But other investments, like if you can even call them that, deficit spending to go to the wealthiest and tax cuts doesn't pay for itself. It just doesn't work.

You remember the dorm room arguments about communism and how it looked good in theory, but didn't work in practice? The same is true of Reagan-style supply-side economics.

The idea that tax cuts pay for themselves. Didn’t actually work out when we tried it. So let’s call that what it is.

Q: Thank you for being here. I want to go back to your Medicare for All reference. And here's the problem. Medicare to me is a kind of schizophrenia public policy where we say if -- if we're talking about health care, Medicare will pay $500,000 for a surgery or hospitalization. But on the other end of the spectrum, the long term care side, people do get bankrupt, go bankrupt for assisted living from nursing homes from home care, would you support an expansion of Medicare so that everyone can feel comfortable? And everyone has a sense of security, no matter where they are in the lifespan?

A: Yeah, no, I'm really glad you raised that. Because as much as we benefited from what Medicare doesn't cover, we were also staring down the barrel, especially when you're told -- and I'm sure many of us have been in that situation -- we had this situation where I say, okay, all you gotta do in order to cover this long term care, is spend down everything you've ever saved so that you're poor enough to qualify for [inaudible.]

And what kind of messages does that send about caretakers, so -- and as my generation is increasingly going to be called to look after our parents, this is going to become more and more urgent. It's expensive, but the reality is, what we're doing now is expensive, right? If -- If you don't have insurance, you're paying too much for healthcare. If you do have insurance, you're paying too much for healthcare. Right? Because our system is so inefficient. So we got -- we got to come up with a solution.

Q: You mentioned early childhood earlier. Marshalltown has a child care crisis, much the rest of the United States, what is your policy on making it affordable for people, helping that people who provide childcare make a living wage and helping businesses protect and attract and retain employees because there's adequate childcare in the United States?

The question is about childcare, how you make sure there's affordability of childcare and also how to deal with the -- the shortage of people able to provide. And this is true for early childhood education as well as childcare more broad. I believe there's kind of three legged stool. Two of them, you mentioned, one of them is is affordability, and another one of them is -- is compensation, and then the third is quality, and they all go with each other.

So we did in South Bend, not having the resources to deploy and fund a universal city owned and operated program was we started investing in the quality piece by investing in the people. So, grants that would help people advance of the different kinds of ratings for quality. Knowing that you need to have quality, affordable childcare for all, but we can't expect to do better with the shortages that we experienced in my community and this community unless we are willing to compensate providers for what it's worth. Now, the more we do that, the more we're gonna have a challenge around affordability. I mean, we need so many people who are basically working for the purpose of being able to pay for their childcare so that they can be able to work.

It's a -- it's just a loop, and we've got to break that. That won't happen without some kind of federal investment. And so I believe investment in the professional development of teachers and providers is very important, but also some system -- and there are different ways you can do it -- The one that looks about -- most attractive to us. And we'll roll out more more detail on how we view this in time. But it's some form of tax credit style allowance for childcare that will help people cover those costs because in this country is costing people who between 10 percent and a third of what they earn. Yeah, and the idea of working so that you can afford to have childcare so you can work just doesn't add up.

Q: Hi, I'm with Kids for Boundary Waters, the lakes and rivers that for the US and Canada, and there's a mining company trying to put in a copper or -- or sulfide mine, and if that leaks, it would ruin thousands of acres of land. And we traveled to D.C. talking to senators and different Congress members trying to stop this. My question is, what is your views on like environmental protection and what would you do to help?

A: The question, if you didn't hear, is about environmental protection. The person asking a question is especially concerned with the Boundary Waters and the proposal to -- to have infrastructure go in there that runs the risk of polluting the waters between the US and Canada, but also, more broadly, environmental protection.

To me, this is one of the things we're talking about when we talk about taking a longer view, when we talked about doing right, by between generations and for future generations. And it means that what might look like it's good economics in the short run, only looks that way, because we're not counting the risks. And we're not counting the long term effects.

You know, we need to look no further than then Flint to see what's at stake in the water pool. And, you know, thankfully, in our community, we've been able to have very strong drinking water quality, but we've had a lot of concerns around wastewater and managing that the right way. This is not sexy stuff, right? Water… But every major notice that some of the most important infrastructure we set up is the infrastructure that -- that delivers and treats and maintains clean, safe water for everybody. And it would help if we had an EPA led by somebody who actually believed in [interrupted by applause.].

Q: [off-mic question about veterans and faith]

If you didn’t hear the question, one is about veterans and the other one is about faith and religious freedom. So first of all, thank you for serving. I learned -- I learned how to speak Marine a little bit, because my right hand was a Gunny Sergeant so became fluent in Marine for a brief period of time.

To me, it's not about doing a favor to veterans, it's about keeping a promise. There's a mutual promise that was made between our country and between the women and men who raised your right hand and swore to protect with their lives. And that promise ought to last a lifetime. So when we have even one homeless veteran, America is falling down on a promise.

What we tried to do in our community -- that I think works in a lot of communities that are really tackling homeless veterans -- is first of all, a housing first strategy, that if they have mental health issues or addiction issues, often by the way, a direct consequence of of a setback related to their service. That, first, we get them indoors and then we deal with the other issues instead of saying you got to be clean before we can put a roof over your head.

A second thing that's been very effective for us is reconnecting veterans with the kind of structure that they knew when they were serving. So for example, when I was sworn in as Mayor, we had an honor guard organized of veterans who are experiencing homelessness who were getting back on their feet.

So it's not just what -- can -- how can we do use something for you, but also we're asking you to do something for us. And they stand a little tall. And it was -- is a great program that we were happy to support. And then the third is making sure as you say that healthcare access is both inside of the VA system, but also for people who are falling through the cracks.

And I think we get it right with extending health care at all, it will help with that issue, that we make sure that's available, especially for people who find it hard to drive to the nearest clinic for the specialty care that they need.

So that's a lot of a lot of things in a nutshell. This is very important to me as somebody who is religious, and who also believes that anyone who steps into the political space has a responsibility to speak for and to people of any religion or no religion. And that's that's how this country got started, people who had a certain view of somebody's religion being forced on them. And they saw it freedom from that. And I absolutely believe that a multifaith society like ours, when people have different religious traditions and people with none at all can -- can live together and support each other. It's like any other right, you know, there's, there's the famous Supreme Court case said you -- the right to free speech doesn’t mean you can yell fire in a crowded theater. The right to swing my fist ends where somebody else's nose begins. And so I guess the way I come at it with faith is we support everybody's right to practice their faith. We also make sure that we have a system that protects anybody from harming somebody else. And just because you say your religion made you do it doesn't make it okay.

Q: What are your views on legalizing and decriminalizing things like cannabis? Possibly things like psychedelic studies, which so far have been shown to really help veterans out with things like PTSD, depression, because I feel like mental health and addiction is a really big, problem right now -- [rest of question inaudible]

Thank you. The question, if you couldn’t hear was about decriminalization and legalization especially knowing that veterans among others have often turned to things like cannabis is -- it's frankly part of treatment.

So I think we need to move in the direction of legalization. And it's -- that's not to say these things are without risks, from a public health perspective, I can't recommend smoking anything.

But it is also clear that the war on drugs has been counterproductive. And you know, for -- for those of us whose communities have been ravaged by the opioid crisis, we know that the only reason we're starting to get traction and starting to finally beat back the explosion in overdose deaths is we've been willing to treat addiction as a medical issue and not a moral failing.

And so we need to be very careful as we explore the therapeutic implications of different substances and drugs but automatically criminalizing things especially when it turns out that sometimes that the -- the criminal justice response has done more harm than the substance itself.

I mean, we have so many people withdrawn from society for nonviolent drug offenses where they could be contributing to our communities. I think it is time to -- top to bottom -- reexamine, and in many cases reform, the way we handle our policy on this.

Q: [off-mic question]

A: The gentleman asking the question got a surprise 8,000 tax bill this season, which is not quite as judicious and measured as [inaudible]. Thanks for that. Look, it's very clear that the current tax law was not really designed with the interests of most Americans or fairness in mind. It catered to very few. And it seemed to be about comforting the comfortable. Didn't do much other than afflict the afflicted.

We ought to have and we have had at other times in American history -- and we can see other societies and some states that have a much fairer way of going about taxation. And I think most people, especially people who have become spectacularly successful, because of their success, but also because they have the benefit of living in a country that has the rule of law and the infrastructure and the education and workforce that it does, that they would be prepared to pay a share of their wealth and to share their income in order to keep that going for the next person who comes along. That's -- that's pretty commonsensical. And even though taxes have been a bit of a third rail, because we've been living through this kind of 40 year Reagan era, in which the only thing even a Democrat dared ever saying you would ever do to any tax anywhere is cut it.

The reality is some folks aren’t paying their fair share. And that's true on everything from corporate offshore tax shelter to the way that taxes on the wealthiest have been hacked down more than necessary and more than they even asked for.

Well, I also just want to mention one other thing, because when it comes to the surprise, the element of surprise that in addition to policy and making sure it's fair, we just got to do some -- some under the hood work on how the IRS works.

There was a proposal to simplify electronic filing. And it got fought by the companies that make a lot of money on helping you file your taxes, right? They have an interest in it being really complicated.

And so, you know, there are a lot of places where you can pay your taxes on your phone, and you could get some kind of regular readout so that don't have the kind of nasty surprise you have waiting for you. It goes to a whole broader set of issues that I won't bore you with right now, but around digital citizenship, and the way our online experience works, there's so many things that are backwards. And I'll give you just a couple examples. Here on a website. One thing you you would never do for security reasons. Hopefully nobody here does this. If you do you got to change it -- is to have your password be the same as your login, right?

Because you want your password to be hard to guess, you have to think about what a social security number is? It's our ID. And it's also our password. Which means if somebody has it, you're in trouble.

It's just one example of the way that we need to update how our experience -- when we log online, when we go to pay taxes, when we're interacting with banks -- needs to be updated for the 21st century.

And that because we have 50 different states with 50 different sets of rules, we got to update that at a national level and it's one of the -- it's not always some I get a big cheer about -- it doesn't spirit the soul to talk about the finer points of taxation.

My time is up, I’m looking forward to visiting a little while but if you believe in this message, if you like what we're trying to do, if you want to be part of this, please go on to Pete for America.com, join the team, sign up, let us know your zip code so we can track you down and keep in touch

And I can't wait to see you out on the trail.