Back on April 1, we asked our readers what they would ask Barack Obama if given the chance to ask any question. After being disappointed by the last televised debate, we came up with a list of questions that the MOMocrats and our readers wished that ABC had asked, and sent them off to his campaign HQ. They replied with answers to five of our questions on poverty, the credit crisis, torture, childcare, and maternity leave, all answered exclusively for MOMocrats.
1. From Jen: John Edwards spoke repeatedly about alleviating suffering and poverty for the poorest among us. With 46 million people living in poverty and tens of thousands of homeless people in most major cities in our nation, what will be your response in addressing the lack of affordable housing in our nation?
OBAMA: Rising poverty is one of the most serious issues facing America today, and I believe that inserting simplistic tag lines or one-dimensional goals are unlikely to be helpful in meeting this challenge. As president, I will build off of my life experiences of fighting poverty and hopelessness as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer and elected official to make poverty eradication a top goal of my administration.
As President, I will increase the supply of affordable housing. In too many communities, low-income families are priced out of the housing market. Between 1993 and 2003, the number of units of affordable to low-income households fell by 1.2 million. I believe we should create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to develop affordable housing in mixed-income neighborhoods. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund would use a small percentage of the profits of two government-sponsored housing agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to create thousands of new units of affordable housing every year. I will also restore cuts to public housing operating subsidies, and ensure that all Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs are restored to their original purpose.
In addition to addressing the housing crisis, my anti-poverty plan will significantly improve opportunities for millions of poor children and their parents by strengthening the economy for working Americans and providing additional resources to programs that have proven to be effective in reducing poverty. For example, my plan will expand the EITC, which is considered one of the most effective pro-work anti-poverty programs to date, to 5.8 million more Americans. Additionally, my EITC plan will increase EITC benefits for another 6.2 million Americans. I will also extend affordable, quality and portable health insurance coverage to every American and make significant investments in early childhood education to help low-income families. I will invest $1 billion over five years into transitional jobs and career pathways programs to engage more Americans into the workforce and help them succeed. I will also work to tackle chronic poverty in urban neighborhoods across American by creating Promise Neighborhoods in 20 cities to provide new hope and opportunities to residents of concentrated poverty.
Perhaps most importantly, my plan will only focus on strengthening and expanding the most-effective methods for reducing poverty and including taking steps to strengthen families by reducing domestic violence, rewarding fathers who do the right thing and giving parents the right to take time off from work to care for a sick child. That's why my plan includes expanding innovative programs like the Nurse-Family Partnership, a program that has nurses visit and train low-income first-time mothers, because it has been proven to have produced an average of five dollars in savings for every dollar invested and produced more than $28,000 in net savings for every high-risk family enrolled in the program. If my administration finds that one of its anti-poverty programs is not working, that program will be eliminated and funds will be routed to more effective uses.
2. From Debbie: Many in the U.S. are deeply in debt, struggling to pay off credit cards with high interest rates. The mortgage crisis is pushing many working families even closer to the edge. Meanwhile, it is becoming harder for individuals with good credit scores to secure credit at a fair rate. And foreign investors are becoming nervous about whether U.S. consumers (and corporations) will be able pay back their debts, given the struggling U.S. economy. What do you plan to do to address the growing credit crisis?
OBAMA: The financial fallout from the mortgage crisis has spilled into the larger economy with millions of Americans now worried about their jobs, their homes and their financial futures. At this moment, we must come together and act to address the housing crisis, restore balance, fairness and confidence in our economy, and provide some relief to Americaâs middle class families that are getting squeezed from all sides.
Six months ago, I announced my plan to put a middle-class tax cut worth $500 per person or $1000 per family into the pockets of workers who deserve it. I also proposed eliminating income taxes for seniors making under $50,000 and creating a universal mortgage credit for homeowners who do not itemize, which will provide an average of $500 to 10 million homeowners.
And because this kind of relief can't wait until the next President takes office, I proposed a plan in January to provide an immediate tax cut of $250 for workers and their families and a temporary $250 bonus to seniors in their Social Security checks. These tax cuts will help to stimulate the economy by immediately putting money into the pockets of working Americans who need it and will spend it. And if the economy continued to worsen, I called for an additional $250 to workers and seniors to help them get by.
To address the housing crisis, I have worked with Senator Chris Dodd to introduce legislation that would convert risky mortgages to stable, fixed 30-year mortgages that helps families avoid foreclosure, reduces potential losses for investors, and injects more credit and confidence into the marketplace. I have also called for a Foreclosure Prevention Fund to provide resources to innocent homeowners, and a 10 percent universal mortgage tax credit. And we should provide aid to states that have been hardest-hit by the housing crisis so that they don't have to slash essential services like health care or infrastructure, and extending unemployment insurance for those Americans who find themselves out of work.
Part of the reason the housing crisis has caused so much harm is that Americans are already living on the edge. In order to prevent the kinds of deceptive practices that led to today's mortgage crisis and to prevent credit cards from becoming the next subprime crisis, I will create a system that's open and transparent and establish a five-star credit card rating system. And I will institute a Credit Card Bill of Rights that bans unilateral changes to credit card agreements, applies interest rates increases only to future debts, and prohibits interest on transaction fees.
In addition to this immediate relief, we need a long-term strategy to grow our economy and make it work for every American. That's why I have proposed a plan that would keep us competitive by providing every American with a world-class education from birth to college and to invest in the industries of the future, like renewable energy and technology, because we need to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation to keep us strong and competitive in a 21st century economy.
3. From SueBob: Will you stop the United States from torturing people and holding them without charge or trial?
OBAMA: I strongly oppose the use of torture. From both a moral standpoint and a practical standpoint, torture is wrong. Military and intelligence experts agree that torture is not an effective means of interrogation, and that our use of it threatens our troops serving abroad. It also violates international legal norms and human rights. From both a moral standpoint and a practical standpoint, torture is wrong.
I will also work with Congress to restore the historic right of habeas corpus. I am confident that we have nothing to fear and everything to gain by asking our courts to help ensure we're holding the right people, not the wrong people. Our legal system can deal with these individuals and demonstrate to the world our commitment to the rule of law.
4. From AmyUWM: What do (Obama and Clinton) plan to do about the horrifically family unfriendly policies of corporate America? How can we better support working moms and working families with paid maternity leave, affordable childcare, etc. Does s/he see these issues as a priority for his/her administration?
OBAMA: We need to give working families a break. For twenty-five years, we've seen gaps in wealth grow larger, while our tax code that favors wealth over work. That's why I've proposed an income tax cut to offset the payroll tax that working Americans are already paying. This will be worth up to $1000 for a working family. I'll make retirement more secure for America's seniors by eliminating income taxes for any retiree making less than $50,000 per year. And I won't wait ten years to raise the minimum wage - I'll guarantee that it goes up every single year. That's the change that working Americans need.
We know that the cost of the American dream must never come at the expense of the American family. You're working longer hours. More families have two parents working. Meanwhile, it's hard to get a hand. It's even harder to get a break. That's why I'll double spending on quality after-school programs - so that you can know your kids are safe and secure. And that's why I'll expand the Family Medical Leave Act to include more businesses and millions more workers; to let parents participate in school activities with their kids; and to cover elderly care. And we'll finally put federal support behind state efforts to provide paid Family and Medical Leave.
We also need to change a system that is stacked against women. Forty percent of working women do not have a single paid sick day. More and more women are denied jobs or promotions because they've got kids at home. As the son of a single mother, that is not the America that I believe in. I'll be a President who stands up for working parents. We'll require employers to provide seven paid sick days each year. We'll enforce laws that prohibit caregiver discrimination. And we'll encourage flexible work schedules to better balance work and parenting for mothers and fathers. That's the change that working families need.
5. From Sara: My biggest question is what can be done to help dual income families, with specific regards to paid maternity leave (which he has addressed briefly, but I would love some more detail on) and access to quality affordable childcare.
OBAMA: As a state legislator and a U.S. Senator, I have always supported family friendly policies. As president, I will initiate a 50 state strategy to encourage all of the states to adopt paid-leave systems, and I will provide a $1.5 billion fund to assist states with start-up costs and to help states offset the costs for employees and employers.
I also believe that the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit provides too little relief to families that struggle to afford child care expenses. Consequently, I will reform the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit by making it refundable and allowing low-income families to receive up to a 50 percent credit for their child care expenses.
So, Senator Clinton, what do you have to say on these topics? We'd love to know!