Pro-Wrestling Kendrick B. Meek Page
Last updated 24 July 2004
Thursday July 15, 1:08 pm ET
Rep. Meek Follows Earlier Responses from President Bush and Sen. Kerry; Other Members of Congress Are Urged to Respond to Issues Important to 18-to 30-Year-Old Americans
STAMFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 15, 2004-- U.S. Representative Kendrick B. Meek, a Democrat from Florida, is the first member of Congress to respond to The 18-30 VIP, a national voter issues paper for 18-to 30-year-olds issued by Smackdown Your Vote!®, a national effort to encourage young Americans to become active participants in their democracy and vote. The response was issued today by World Wrestling Entertainment®, which has played a leadership role in Smackdown Your Vote!
President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry responded to The 18-30 VIP last month. More members of Congress are expected also to respond. A letter inviting each member of Congress to respond to The 18-30 VIP has also been issued by WWE®.
The 18-30 VIP covers issues important to younger voters as determined by research conducted by various organizations, including Harvard University, was submitted to both major political party campaigns. Other organizations that participated in preparing or have endorsed the VIP are the Harvard Institute of Politics, MTV's Choose or Lose, the League of Women Voters, Rock The Vote, New Voters Project, Hip-Hop Team Vote, 18to35, Declare Yourself, Youth Vote Coalition, the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Close Up/First Vote, The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery's Paul Peck Presidential Initiative, and the National Council of LaRaza.
"Rep. Meek has shown great leadership in being the first member of Congress to respond to the important and credible issues of young Americans of voting age," said Gary Davis, Executive Director, WWE's Smackdown Your Vote. "We encourage other members of Congress and candidates vying for Congressional seats to respond to the issues of 18-to 30-year-old Americans by responding to The 18-30 VIP."
The goal of the Smackdown Your Vote VIP partners is to increase voter participation among 18-to 30-year-olds by two million in this year's elections in order to get 20 million young voters to the polls. The candidates for federal office, by formally responding to the issues that are of greatest concern to young Americans, have demonstrated their interest in these potential voters. This should encourage 18-to 30-year-olds that their votes will count in November.
The 18-30 VIP covers issues of the economy, Iraq, education and how candidates relate to younger voters. Responding to the VIP is an opportunity for candidates running for political office -- from the federal to local levels -- to speak directly to younger constituents of voting age on the issues that are important to them.
Rep. Meek's full responses to the questions are posted at smackdownyourvote.com and attached to this release. They will also be posted on the League of Women Voters DNet website and 18to35.org. The responses of President Bush and Sen. Kerry also can be viewed at these sites. The candidates have been invited to update their responses to The 18-30 VIP as their respective campaigns continue.
Young people rank the creation of well-paying jobs as the number one issue when deciding how they might vote. That issue is followed closely by access to affordable healthcare. Today, 40% of young adults are uninsured, the largest percentage of uninsured across any age group. They are also concerned about debt and trying to make ends meet. With all of these financial hurdles, saving for emergencies or for the future is difficult, if not impossible.
1. In the current job market, young people perceive that desirable jobs are scarcer than in years past. What specific economic policies are you going to champion to promote the creation of jobs for people starting out in their careers that pay well and keep the economy strong?
Kendrick Meek: Young Americans' perception that jobs are scarcer than in the past is not an illusion. According to the Economic Policy Institute, in the past four years the percentage of unemployed young Americans has gone up 3.7%. It is also shocking that there are now more unemployed college graduates than there are high school dropouts. The fundamental problem here is that our economy is not producing enough high-quality jobs.
I believe the following steps must be taken in order to bolster our economy:
-End the outsourcing of American jobs. The Bush Administration has lost over 2 million manufacturing jobs over the past three years and the Republican Party has done nothing to shore up our manufacturing sector. Democrats in Congress have pushed a bipartisan solution to provide tax incentives to corporations who keep jobs in the U.S. This measure was defeated in exchange for a Republican measure that would continue and even increase tax breaks to corporations who outsource jobs.
-Protect overtime pay. The Bush Administration has repeatedly attempted to deny overtime pay to more than eight million American workers. Thankfully, these attempts have failed so far, but the Republican leadership continues to attempt to latch this proposal onto other measures and cut other backroom deals that would mean less pay and longer hours for hard-working Americans.
Protecting our economy from hemorrhaging jobs to overseas markets, while protecting hard working Americans from losing their overtime pay are important first steps in working to address our economic problems in this country.
2. How will you tackle the challenge of providing all young adults with access to affordable health-care coverage?
Kendrick Meek: While young adults are usually a healthy group, going without health insurance introduces barriers to care when it is needed, and leaves young adults and their families at risk for high out-of-pocket costs in the event of severe illness or injury. Young adults account for 12 million of the 41 million Americans who lack health insurance. Young people account for 30% of all uninsured, despite the fact that they are only 15% of the population. The fundamental problem here is the skyrocketing costs of health care. It is simply too difficult for too many Americans to afford quality, reliable coverage.
I support efforts to expand the coverage offered to low-income individuals by the states through programs like Medicare. Congressman Vic Snyder has legislation (HR 3192) that would allow states to extend coverage to young adults over the age of 18, who are not currently covered. Many programs currently reclassify young adults as ineligible once they turn 18. This legislation would extend health care aid to many young adults, and offer federal matching funds to states to encourage state participation in this important program.
3. What policies will you promote to help young adults achieve greater financial planning and security, and to help those who are living paycheck to paycheck to get out of that cycle?
Kendrick Meek: Again, the fundamental problem here is the state of our economy. With 8.2 million Americans looking for work, clearly Congress must do more to strengthen the economy and allow our workforce to prepare for the future.
In addition to protecting our workers' overtime wages and reducing outsourcing incentives, we must invest in the future. We must renew our national commitment to innovation by investing more funds in science, engineering, and mathematics research and development in order to facilitate the scientific advancement necessary to keep our workforce competitive in an increasingly global economy.
We must also ensure that our workforce remains the best trained in the world, and that our workers possess the skills necessary to succeed. In order to do this we must keep college affordable, and I support efforts to double the Pell grant to $11,600 by 2011. Increases in funding for job training must also be made to ensure our workers are trained for industries with an unmet demand for high-skilled talent.
It's also important to encourage and support financial planning and savings opportunities for in K-12 and in higher education.
Iraq and National Security
Second only to economic concerns, the war in Iraq and safety from terrorism ranked as the most important issues young people consider when deciding which candidate to support. For young Latinos, the war in Iraq ties with the economy as an issue of primary concern. With 70% of enlisted personnel ages 30 or younger, and a majority of them leaving spouses behind, the U.S. military decisions significantly affect young adults.
4. What should America's long-term role be in Iraq?
Kendrick Meek: After months of assuring the Congress and the American people that the number of troops in Iraq would decline dramatically by year's end, the Bush Administration announced that we will need to maintain at least 135,000 troops in Iraq through the end of next year and requested an additional $25 billion in funding. Our soldiers are struggling to complete their missions without the proper training resources, or support. And recent reports of abuse in Iraqi prisons indicate that there was a breakdown in military leadership from top to bottom. The Administration has not been honest about the true cost of the war in Iraq, and the American people are paying the price.
Now the handover of authority in Iraq from the Coalitional Provisional Authority to the Interim Government of Iraq has taken place. This is a first step in a long road towards security and stability in Iraq.
Ensuring that Iraq becomes stable and secure is in the interests of the entire world community - not only the United States. The Bush Administration's approach relies on U.S. troops suffering almost all of the casualties and American taxpayers paying virtually all of the cost. We must take the steps necessary to secure the region through expanding international cooperation in the region, stabilize the country, and bring our troops home as quickly as possible. The entire international community should join together to provide immediate, tangible, and generous assistance to the Iraqi people in the reconstruction of their nation.
5. How will you balance the costs of America's foreign policy agenda with the costs of domestic policy needs?
Kendrick Meek: After three years of poor planning and misplaced priorities, a surplus of $5.6 trillion is turning into a deficit of $2.9 trillion -- an $8.5 trillion reversal. Most of this deficit can be attributed to record tax breaks that benefit only major corporations and the country's wealthiest 2%.
However, while giving away money by the truckloads, current leadership has neglected to fully fund No Child Left Behind, Medicare, or Homeland Security - three of most important issues before us today. As well, the President has not pursued an honest cost assessment for the Iraqi War, which has already cost us nearly $120 billion. We find ourselves balancing our national safety against the education and health of our citizens, while trillions of dollars have been squandered by the administration in self-serving and unwise tax giveaways.
6. What is your plan for protecting America from terrorism?
Kendrick Meek: The United States has made some progress in the War on Terror. However, we have lost focus on rooting out those responsible for the terrorist attacks on our nation and those of our allies. Further we've been drawn into a protracted war that drains our manpower and resources, but from which we cannot pull out. Meanwhile, there are still many other national security concerns around the world from Afghanistan to North Korea to the Philippines to the Middle East.
Winning the war on terror will require an unprecedented level of cooperation and coordination between every intelligence agency in the United States government and between the intelligence services of our allies. Many of the same problems with intelligence sharing, watch listing, and intelligence collection and analysis that existed before September 11th, still exist today.
If we want to protect the homeland and destroy Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups, great change must take place in the intelligence community. A report released by the Democratic staff of the Homeland Security Committee outlined several measures to improve our intelligence including: creating a fully unified terrorist watch list; improving human intelligence capabilities; integrating intelligence; and increasing the language skills of intelligence analysts and case officers.
Here at home, there are critical gaps in our nation's homeland security and Congress must act to close these gaps and eliminate these weaknesses. Our police officers and firefighters are struggling to cope with the dual responsibilities of homeland security and traditional law enforcement, but the Bush Administration has underfunded first responders and port security, and failed to budget a single dollar for rail or transit security. Ensuring our first responders have the adequate equipment and training is the only way to ensure America is prepared for terrorist threats.
7. How do we safeguard our civil liberties and promote tolerance while protecting our homeland?
Kendrick Meek: Recently, I introduced legislation (HR 4414) that would create positions within federal and independent agencies and departments who would be solely responsible for monitoring privacy issues. This bill, called the Strengthening Homeland Innovation by Emphasizing Liberty, Democracy, and Privacy Act, or SHIELD Privacy Act, would also create a "chief privacy czar" in the Office of Management and Budget to coordinate federal government privacy policies and create a Congressionally appointed commission charged to conduct a comprehensive study of our effort to further homeland security in a manner that protects privacy, civil liberties, and individual freedoms.
Another issue that young people are concerned about is access to affordable college and higher education. Some young adults find it difficult for individuals and families to pay for a college education. College costs continue to increase. The result is a greater reliance on student loans (and credit cards) and an accumulation of unmanageable higher-education debt. The debt burden becomes substantially greater for those continuing to graduate school.
8. Do you believe that college can be made affordable and accessible for all qualified adults? How will you make college more affordable and accessible?
Kendrick Meek: The costs of attending college are staggering. In the past year alone, tuition has increased an average of 14% at 2 and 4-year public institutions, and 6% at private schools. The economic downturn has forced many states to cut their state education budgets, and this has caused many of the huge increases at public universities and colleges.
The Bush Administration has largely ignored this problem. President Bush has yet to make good on his 2000 campaign promise to raise the maximum Pell award to $5,100 for all college freshmen. At a time when the cost of tuition has gone up 28% in the last three years, Republicans in Congress and President Bush have frozen, or cut, the Pell Grant and other federal assistance programs. Sadly, now due to Republican negligence, the Pell Grant is now worth $500 less than the maximum award in 1976-1977.
College can become more accessible. Education should be a priority of this President and this Congress, but it has not been. The federal government simply must invest much more of its resources to improving the accessibility of higher education.
9. In light of the struggle to pay for college, what will you do to make it easier for young adults to attend college or graduate school without accumulating unmanageable debt?
Kendrick Meek: Raising federal assistance is one way to help alleviate the problem of college debt. However, ensuring that students have more options after college is the best way to address this critical problem.
Over the past decade, the typical student loan debt has nearly doubled to $17,000 with 64% of students borrowing federal education loans to finance their college costs. Today, loans compromise nearly 70% of total federal student aid, while grants only account for 22%. Thirty years ago, grants accounted for about 70% of total federal student aid.
A strong loan consolidation program with a low-fixed rate is critical to making education accessible. Millions of students are taking on high interest rate debt loads that discourage college attendance and encourage defaults that cost taxpayers billions.
I also favor the elimination of loan origination fees, which I feel are unnecessary and unfair costs that banks charge students.
10. What policies will you promote to help better prepare high school students for college or for entering the workforce?
Kendrick Meek: Preparation for college must start early. Over 37% of fourth graders do not meet the basic achievement level in reading, and 70% of them are not considered to be proficient in math and science. Nationally, our classrooms are too crowded to provide the kind of learning environment our children need.
In 2002, I led a successful ballot initiative in Florida to reduce class sizes in our overcrowded public schools. I have also supported full investment in Head Start and Healthy Start programs. Research continually points to overwhelming evidence that gains made by 3- and 4-year olds benefit them throughout their entire educational careers.
The high school years are a critical time in any young person's educational career. Every student who wants to attend college should be able to attend college. But the reality is that after high school, many students will take different paths.
Vocational training programs, community college opportunities and other post-high school options should be readily accessible for those students who are interested.
Finally, while there are certainly many good policy aspects of No Child Left Behind, a failure in both years of the fledgling program to fund it at the levels promised has resulted in a lessening in the quality of education, leaving every child behind. We need to make a serious investment in the education of our children and not merely in bumper stickers and slogans.
Motivation and Vision
Most young people believe that the political system in this country is unresponsive to the genuine needs of the public. Young voters do not feel represented by their political leaders. They believe that politicians lose touch with the people very quickly. Some believe politicians are more guided by special interests and their own self-aggrandizement than the wishes of the people who elect them to office. It seems that too often, they see politics as part of the problem and not a viable solution for making a difference in their country and in their communities.
11. What values and motivations are at the center of your drive to run for elected office?
Kendrick Meek: Having had a mother who was also a Congresswoman, I have long been exposed to politics. I saw the commitment she made to her constituents, the lives she had changed during her career, and the opportunities she's created for others, and I knew right away that I wanted to serve the public just as she had done.
I see myself as an advocate on behalf of the needs of my district, my state and the country and rely on my heart, my conscience and input from my constituents to help me make the best decisions as a public servant.
12. How will you restore confidence in the political process for young people?
Kendrick Meek: Young people simply must get more involved in the political process. I founded the College Democrats chapter at my alma mater, Florida A & M University, and have long been presented with the challenge of getting more young people involved.
I, and other young Democratic members of the House of Representatives, speak weekly on the House floor about issues important to young people. We've discussed college costs, student debt, the middle class squeeze, rising gas prices, student voter suppression and many other issues that affect young people. We have even created an e-mail address, 30SomethingDems@mail.house.gov, that allows young people to contact us with their concerns and give us input on what issues we should discuss. We want to empower young people to be active participants in the political process and to recognize how important their involvement is to their own livelihood.
13. What do you intend to do during your campaign to address the concerns of 18-to-30-year-olds?
Kendrick Meek: I first ran for office when I was 27. I realize that young people must get involved or elected officials will not address their issues. The next generation will be affected by the policies of today, and that's why it's crucial that young people get involved. Their futures depend on it. Whenever possible, I will continue to travel throughout the country listening to young people and sharing their ideas and suggestions with my colleagues in Washington D.C.
Although my campaign this year is not competitive, I will continue to reach out to young people as I have throughout my entire career. Young people have always played an active and substantive role in my legislative and political efforts.
14. If you are elected to political office, what will you do to make sure the voices of the 18-to-30-year-olds are heard and represented?
Kendrick Meek: My weekly sessions on the House floor as part of the "30 Something Working Group" are designed to bring youth issues to the attention of Congress and the American people. I am excited by theses issues, and fully intend to continue my participation in this very important group.
I will also continue to encourage young people to express their ideas and suggestions because their input is crucial.