Hmoodle: The economic situation with minimum wage at a stagnant standpoint while prices are gradually rising with the cost of living, how would you go on accomplishing this task at hand if elected by the people?
Al Franken: Great question. Everything has gotten more expensive – from gas and bread, to college tuition and health care. Restoring middle class prosperity is the top issue in my campaign and the concern I hear most often when I travel around the state. When Minnesota families sit around the kitchen table figuring out their monthly budgets, they find themselves making some tough choices. Will we skip our summer vacation? Will the car last through another winter? Do we need to pick up another part-time job? But some line-items aren’t negotiable. Chief among those: the cost of caring for children and, for many families, elderly parents.
We need to get to universal health care as quickly as possible to ease the burden of health care and prescription drug costs on Minnesota families and businesses. And I’m also proposing a set of tax credits and proposals designed to ease the burden on Minnesota families saving for retirement, or caring for children or elderly loved ones. We need to make sure everyone has a livable wage, which means ensuring that the minimum wage at least keeps pace with the cost of living. Also, we have to restore some fairness to the tax code. And that means recognizing that the special tax giveaways to the very wealthy, the hallmark of the Bush-Coleman economic policy, have to be rescinded so that we can give tax cuts to those at the middle and the bottom, including expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit.
When I grew up in St. Louis Park, we weren’t wealthy, but we never worried that what we did have would disappear. And we always believed that if we worked hard, we could get ahead and provide better for our kids than our parents did for us. That is the great promise of the American middle class. And, I believe, the great engine that drives our economy. When I get to Washington, I will do everything I can to make sure that we end the backwards policies of the Bush-Coleman era, so that we can keep that promise alive for our kids and for their kids.
Hmoodle: Countless jobs are diminishing as large corporations are consolidating their business elsewhere and this is the new trend nowadays, what would be your initial steps to retain these big corporations from straying away from our state?
Al Franken: The first thing we should do to keep manufacturing jobs in this country is to stop giving tax credits to corporations that shift their jobs over seas. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but Norm Coleman voted to protect those tax giveaways. He’s also voted against hundreds of millions of dollars in job training programs that would have provided new skills and job opportunities to those very workers who lost those jobs. Now let me say something about trade. We have to enter into trade deals that don¹t create a race to the bottom. We have to have trade deals that protect the right to organize, that have safety protections, that have environmental protections and standards and those have to be enforced. Also, what we need to do here is to get the universal healthcare as quickly as possible. A car built in Detroit costs the manufacturer an extra $1400 in healthcare costs for the workers who built it. That’s $1400 per car that the manufacturer could save by moving the production across the border to Windsor, Ontario. So if we want to keep our manufacturers in the manufacturing business, we should get them out of the healthcare business. We should also help our auto manufacturers regain the lead by expanding tax credits for the production of cars with higher fuel efficiency and hybrid technology. We’ve been lax in raising those standards in this country and I want to make sure that we don’t fall further behind the rest of the world. But I’m not satisfied with just stemming the loss of manufacturing jobs, I want to create more. Fortunately if we are smart and invest in both research and development for energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, Minnesota manufacturers and workers can be big winners in the green economy. I want to see wind turbines and plug-in hybrid electric cars being built in Minnesota factories by Minnesota workers. A renewable energy economy in this country will create millions of new jobs that can not be shifted overseas.
Hmoodle: I am Hmong-American and my people before me had fought and died, as well as bled for this country during the secret war in Laos. Presently, there is turmoil in Laos and their bordering country Thailand, where my brethrens, my people are facing genocidal reprisals from this past conflict. We at Hmoodle.com would like to speak for the Hmong community to get your opinion in relations to remedying this situation. I do suspect that due to certain limitations governing international affairs this might be a little more complex but going back to what I had conveyed earlier, if you were to become senator of our great state of Minnesota how would you undertake this situation?
Al Franken: First, Americans must always remember what happened in South East Asia and Laos specifically during the conflict in that region and that means acknowledging and appreciating the tremendous contribution and sacrifice of the Hmong people on our behalf. To honor that sacrifice, we must not tolerate reprisals against the Hmong people in Laos and Thailand. If there were an attempt to normalize trade with Laos, the one factor that is highly critical to me is the human rights position that is incorporated into such agreement. I won’t hesitate to use our economic and diplomatic tools to bring pressure to bear on Thailand in order to curb the injustices there. In addition, I will support fair and open asylum and refugee laws, to respond to the specific needs of Hmong refugees and their families.