Our previous coverage of Claire McCaskill’s events in Missouri this week:
This is the second part of the talk on Monday, December 15, 2008 in Kansas City – we’ll continue with the final portion in Part 4.
[transcription by CC]
…Claire McCaskill: Hi, Karen!
Question: Hi, how are you?
Claire McCaskill: I’m well!
Question: I have two questions. One deals with, basically what you were just talking about, the bailout. We have a tremendous issue nationwide regarding foreclosures. And what, what’s your insight? How are we really going to address it? I know that Kansas, their HUD plan was rejected, Kansas City submitted a plan and – well, the state of Missouri submitted a plan and Kansas City didn’t receive what they felt was sufficient and they’ve responded. So where do we go and what are your insights, and then lastly, with Senator-elect, President-elect Obama, who is he looking at as it relates to Secretary of Education?…
…Claire McCaskill: That’s a really good question, especially on that last one. I guess you saw that he did HUD. Donovan, out of New York, who’s a terrific pick by the way and you should look at Donovan’s credentials as it relates to foreclosure prevention. He’s got, if you’ve got a little time, Google it, “foreclosure prevention Sean Donovan”, you’ll see he’s done some really imaginative, creative stuff. And that really I think is what interested Barack was that he had been very proactive in New York on this foreclosure issue, in terms of, and here’s the challenge on this, and I know you get this, if we go too far and say, “Okay, we’re going to make everything well for people who are struggling with their mortgages.” Then you’re going to have a lot more people struggling with their mortgages, if you know what I mean. Somebody’s going to be sitting there going, “Well wait a minute. I’m paying all this money on this mortgage, all I’ve got to do is be five months behind and I’m going to get help. So why should I write that mortgage check this month?” That’s the worst thing we could have happen. So you’ve got to be so careful that you craft a program that helps people get through a rough patch without enticing people to dive into a rough patch. And that’s what they’re trying to work on. But they’re very focused on the foreclosure part of it. And I’m, and you know people have said to me, “Well, why should we help anybody who took out a loan that they couldn’t afford.” I say to them, “Well, you know what, if two or three of those are on your street, you’re going to change your mind because it’s going to impact your property value.” And, you know it’s that – what we talked about in crime prevention, the broken windows, window-syndrome. Once one house goes down and two houses go down, then pretty soon the whole neighborhood starts having economic repercussions from what’s happening on your street. So, it’s, it’s really a fine line we’re trying to walk. On Secretary of Education, I will tell you that he is trying to find someone, once again that is, let me just tell everyone in the room, if any of you are here hoping to apply for a job, let me tell you a couple of things, it’s confidence matters, resumes matter, who you know doesn’t matter so much. You can tell by the cabinet he’s appointed so far. There’s lots of people he’s appointed that have surprised people. They were not his political buddies. They are people that have incredible resumes of heft and creativity, accomplishments, and so I think he’s going to want to look to find somebody who, he did some things during the campaign that candidates many times haven’t done, he’s talked about some performance base pay for teachers. Which is if, how many teachers are in the room? Well, you know how wildly controversial that is. Performance-base pay for teachers, very controversial. He is, he is looking to find someone who wants to respect the professionalism of the teaching corps, he wants to pay them a lot more money, but he also wants to do some things, particularly with the urban education where we can start really rewarding the really good teachers and making sure teachers who are no longer wanting to be in the classroom, aren’t in the classroom anymore. Yes –
Question: Hi, I just have a quick question, my name is Sarah…about the military. Two years ago when you were on Hardball with Chris –
Claire McCaskill: I know what you’re going to say! Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell!
Question: Yeah. I want to know, two years later, especially with the support of Barack Obama in reevaluating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and recent document signed by 104 Generals and Admirals, if you have rethought your position on reevaluating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Claire McCaskill: I think you will see action on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. And, I think that – I think we’re to the point that people realize that that is a probably irrelevant consideration. And as I said to a general the other day, “I wish you guys were as worried about the problems you have in the military in terms of-” I’ve been very involved in looking at sexual assault issues that women have had in the military. And there has been an incredible problem of women being sexually assaulted in the military and us not dealing with it. Not with the right mental health provisions, not with the right criminal consequences provisions, and I think there is now, you know as time goes on, I think you are seeing adjustments, even within the military that I think, it has a very good chance of passing this time, if we, if he changes the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and I’ll be happy to support it. And my daughter, the one that talked me into voting, publicly endorsing Barack Obama, will be so glad that I’ve said that publicly. [audience laughter][applause] She bugs me constantly about it! Constantly! I will just be sitting at my desk, in the Senate, and I’ll get a text message, in all capital letters, “WHAT ABOUT DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL?” Exclamation, exclamation, exclamation. So Maddie will be glad you asked the question. Yes…
…Question: I’d like to go back to the economic stimulus, because one of the goals has been to do this whole green revolution thing with it. One of the others has been transportation, transportation infrastructure. I’m just really curious if anyone has thought about putting those together. I’ve done a little analysis of what MODOT has asked for in the economic stimulus, I can tell you right now, if you give billions of dollars to state DOTs to reform transportation, we’re going to have more single automobile transportation and we’re not going to do walking, bicycling, mass transit, all that. So, have you considered, encouraging them or doing that transportation? I think we’ve got billions of dollars of walking and bicycling projects that could be done in ninety days. I know we’ve got billions of dollars of transit projects but we’ve thought about structuring that in a way that won’t just build more highways to [inaudible] more single objects and vehicle driving. Make those green transportation.
Claire McCaskill: Well, I think they are looking at those things. And I think that to the extent there’s mass transit projects that are, you know ninety days ready, I think you’ll see them
funded all over the country. You know, the problem you’ll have is when you’re dealing with state funding, the state has the whole state. And you’re going to see projects funded that enhance certain modes of transportation in urban areas. Bicycling doesn’t help a lot of folks. I mean, I, you know I’m sensitive to this because I represent the whole state. You know if I went out and in Shannon County right now and said we’re going to put a lot of money in bicycle paths, they’d look at me like I had three eyes. [audience laughter] So, you know, there is, there is, the challenges of the breadth of our country and the needs of our country. They’re the challenges of, of being wise with our planet and energy conservation and the challenges of our economy. What I will tell you is, he wants to do more green projects, he wants to promote different modes of transportation, certainly promote biking and walking and mass transportation and light rail, all of those things. It’s just what. what projects are ready to go in ninety days because ultimately this is not about solving the country’s problems. This is about solving the economic problem. So when stimulus, that’s when it will happen. But I think you’re going to see a lot of activity in the stuff you’re talking about in the next four years.
Question: You know we, a group of non-profits interested in this have come up with over a billion dollars worth of just bicycling and walking projects.
Claire McCaskill: Now how many of them are outside of Kansas City and St. Louis?
Question: Some of them are, some of them are.
Claire McCaskill: Okay. [audience laughter]
Question: But that’s nationwide, that’s nationwide. But, but if you look at, like, if you look at MODOT’s list, with five percent of our trips in our state are by walking or bicycling. They use point five percent of their funds to help fix one. On the other hand, if you look at the city’s list, they manage to find almost a billion dollars just in Missouri of transit, bicycling and walking. That’s the mayors. So, I just think that, you know, you can’t look just at the DOTs, they have a very auto centric viewpoint. It can be a mixture of things that can work for everybody.
Claire McCaskill: I think it will be okay.
Question: It would work in cities, small towns, everywhere.
Claire McCaskill: It will be a better mix than it’s been before. Yes, in the back?
Question: Good to see ya, I’m sorry I was late so I hope this, you may have already talked about this, but on this, on this projects, are you familiar with the Main Street proposal from U.S. Conference of Mayors?
Claire McCaskill: Yes.
Question: It deals, city by city, comprehensive lists and it’s, virtually all of it project ready it’s water streets, right, that makes sense. It looks like a pretty good blueprint to me for stuff that could hit the ground running immediately. And it’s thousands and thousands of jobs.
Claire McCaskill: Yeah, I mean they’re looking at, that’s why he’s met with the Governor, that’s why he’s got this liaison set up with the mayors. They’re looking at all of that. Once again, though, they want to make sure they get a balance so we’re not, there’s a tendency for most of those dollars to be concentrated in our urban cores. And we got to be careful that, you know, trust me people in rural Missouri in this economy are hurting as badly and sometimes worse than folks in the cities. So we’ve got to make sure that we’re not just focusing on job creation in the urban cores, we’ve got to make sure we spread it. And that’s why you’ve got to have the mix.
Question: That might be the only problem then is that it tends to be around the top one hundred markets.
Claire McCaskill: Right.
Question: Not so much in the smaller markets.
Claire McCaskill: Right. You sound like Mayor Bloomberg. [audience laughter] He thinks we should spend it all in New York. [audience laughter]
Question: I want, I want our share for the Metro area.
Claire McCaskill: Absolutely, absolutely.
Question: That’s going to tend to be around the larger cities because they’re the ones that are heavily involved in the climate protection process.
Claire McCaskill: Right.
Question: But we’ve got to work together.
Claire McCaskill: Right. Yes? Oh. No wait, I’m sorry, her, then you. [audience laughter] You’re next!
Question: Hi, my name is Adrian…, I have a special concern for children. Especially those who are living and growing in their mother’s womb and I know we have some fundamental disagreements on the issue of abortion but I’ve been trying to think of some areas where we might find some common ground and ways to work together on this. And, you know, I’m also not only concerned with the children but also with their mothers and helping them if they’re in an unexpected pregnancy to have the courage and the resources to either choose to parent, or give the child up for adoption, and making that, making more resources available so that, it’s so expensive to adopt in this country, to work on that. But the two areas that I’m primarily concerned about that I think you could help with, one is in China where they have a one child rule which forces families to often live in great fear of the population police who do forced abortions and sterilizations and we support them through the United Nations Population Fund. Second, through taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood who made a sixty to seventy million dollar profit just last year. They always make a huge profit and our tax payer funding goes towards them. So is there a way where we could defund these organizations that are really promoting abortion?
Claire McCaskill: Well, let me, first just tell you, I couldn’t disagree with you more about Planned Parenthood. [applause] And let me tell you why. In fact, I had an interesting conversation with some young women the other day. The best way, we all agree on one thing, you and I agree on one thing in our hearts, and that is, we want to prevent abortion. No one in America wants abortion and I’ve never seen anyone promote abortion. And I’m very familiar with Planned Parenthood. I have never, I would challenge someone to find a piece of marketing material, find me any advertisement, anything anywhere, where you could ever characterize Planned Parenthood as saying, “We want you to have an abortion. Please have an abortion.” That just is not happening. What is happening is, they’re providing contraceptives to prevent unwanted pregnancies. It is amazing to me, that the most viable organization that can reduce unwanted pregnancies and therefore reduce abortions, is the target for the people who don’t want there to be abortions. [applause] It doesn’t make sense. When I was a young woman, and I didn’t want to have a baby, guess where I went? I was with a group of women aged from about nineteen to beyond…my age [audience laughter] and I asked all of them – [audience laughter] I almost did it! [audience laughter] I asked all of them, when it was time that you would become sexually active and you wanted to make sure you didn’t get pregnant, and you wanted to go some place where you felt comfortable to make sure that you didn’t get pregnant so you’d never have to have an abortion, where did you go? And every woman said Planned Parenthood. We wipe that out and you’re going to see abortions go up in this country to levels you have not seen in decades and decades and decades. I fundamentally disagree that denying people the ability to get contraceptives is ever gonna allow us to prevent abortions. And so, I think, that there is not one dime of public money going to fund abortions in this state. Not one thin dime. It is completely separated. It, they would go to jail if they didn’t. We are not using tax payer money to fund abortions. We are, in fact, we’re not even using tax payer money now to help women get contraceptives. [voice: “Right.” applause] W
e need to do that. We need to do that. Women need to be able to get contraceptives. And if you’ve talked to women who have had unwanted pregnancies, you, you would – many of them are poor women, who did not have any place to go that they could get contraceptives. So if, if you are willing to stand up and say, “I want to help fund more contraceptives with public money.” So people do not get pregnant when they don’t want to be pregnant, then we maybe would have more in common on that particular issue. Yes –
Question: This is not a debate, although I’d love the opportunity sometime. But more and better,,,[crosstalk]
Claire McCaskill: It would not be good! [audience laughter][applause] I know a lot about this!
Question: I, I happen to as well. And more and better contraception has been the answer since the birth control really became, birth control pill really became effective in the sixties and since that time abortions have gone up, not down. And I, I would also like to hear your answer about the forced abortions that women who want to have these babies in China are being forced to have abortions, they’re being, they’re being sterilized –
Claire McCaskill: It’s horrible.[crosstalk]
Voice at back of room: Did they vote for you, Claire?
Claire Mccaskill: No, you know, it’s, it’s…
Question: No, but she already said earlier that she has, at the national level, has an opportunity to effect things throughout the world.
Claire McCaskill: Well, let me just say, I, I think, no one, I mean obviously a forced abortion is, would be criminal in this country, as it should be. And certainly I think the vast majority of, we are really trying to thread the needle on so many things with our relationships with China. Believe me, it’s very difficult, last eight years, they’re our banker. Believe me, right now, in terms of economic health of this country, if they called their loans, we’d be in big trouble. We borrowed every dime for the Iraq war from China. Five hundred and seventy six billion dollars worth, we borrowed from China. So, we’ve got all kinds of challenges. I was over there. I mean, some of the things they do in terms of human rights violations and this is obviously a serious one. And you and I agree on that and I will do everything I can with the purview of my committees and my votes to make sure that no woman in this world is being forced to have any kind of medical procedure she doesn’t want to have or an abortion or anything else. There’s, there’s horrific things happening to women all across the globe. And many in under-developed nations and also, in a nation like China that’s certainly not under-developed anymore. So, we agree that that’s horrific and we need to do everything we can to stop. Yes, Tim. Welcome back to Missouri!
Question: I’m glad to be back in Missouri.
Claire McCaskill: It’s a former State Representative of this district.
Question: On the issue of health care, this is a great opportunity to jump right in there, you know there’s a lot of [inaudible] thought, you know, early in the campaign health care was really being talked about by the group of [inaudible] candidates, by Barack Obama, by John McCain, so we thought this, the stars were aligned, health care is actually going to get dealt with, but then we had this little economic problem kind of creep up towards in there and everybody said, “It’s never going to happen!” But I was wondering if you had any insight, from the outset he picked Daschle, given the appointments that he did, that perhaps the impetus for reform now actually exist than the whole possibility of stimulus, in terms of the economic problems that may actually help push health reform along. So I just kind of wanted your insight on that.
Claire McCaskill: Well, I think Daschle’s going to be a very strong – he clearly, I mean I’d recommend his book on health care reform to anybody who hasn’t read it. He’s really knowledgeable in this area and this was what he really wanted to do because he is driven in terms of wanting to work on health care reform in this country. I think we will get at some serious health care reform within the first, hopefully the first of two terms, but the first Barack Obama administration. I think they’ll be some nibbling around the edges on some health care reform, possibly even in the stimulus. Expansion of the ability to stay on COBRA for example. Some, some additional funding for children’s health insurance. Potentially some tweaking of the Medicare rates. I think all of those are within the realm of possibility in the stimulus. But nobody is backing off at really taking a whack at the silos of profit in the health care industry and reconfiguring health care so it’s more efficient, effective and certainly more preventative. Yes?
Question: Claire, I wanted to, one of the things to take back to Washington here on the Armed Services Committee and personnel as well, I wanted to speak just real briefly of the legal status and legal rights of our captured soldiers. And I know you promised me ten, fifteen minutes, real soon with you, this is kind of separate. It is some resolutions from Clay County, a couple of counties here locally and also some state governments, Cass County signed it also, urging the Department of Defense to bring [inaudible] to casualty status of prisoner of war. And to eliminate the status of missing captured. Matt Maupin is an example, videotaped in captivity. The International Red Cross says he’s done everything to have the legal status of prisoner of war that three, the four years he was gone and he was being, he was referred to as being missing, victim, a hostage. Here are some of the resolutions.
Claire McCaskill: Okay. Okay, alright, I will.[crosstalk]
Question: Thank you so much. Thanks. If you could speak just a minute to their legal status. Of being – [crosstalk]
Claire McCaskill: Well, there’s a lot of – you know, part of the problem with this war is that it, America didn’t really understand what we were getting into when we went. And along the way there have been massive changes in the way that we’ve fought this war compared to other wars. A good example, I mean we’ve had a lot of trouble with the legal status of who’s responsible, is it Iraq? If they think one of our soldiers has done something wrong, violated their criminal laws, if they’re off duty, and off base. That’s one of the things that we had a hard time in the SOFA agreement with. Who’s responsible for the contractors? If Blackwater shoots up a lot of people, do they, are they liable under America law? Are the liable under the Iraqi law? So legal status has been a very difficult thing and I, you know honestly, need to look at this whole [inaudible] of people who have been captured but – [crosstalk]
Question: Please keep in mind that there’s only one combative party in the conflict that needs to be signer for Geneva, for the Geneva Conventions to apply. And I see the judicial branch getting involved all the way up to Supreme Court for our guys that are captured.
Claire McCaskill: Yeah, and the interesting thing is, this administration has been willing to kind of look the other way on Geneva on a number of different times, a number of different times, in a number of different ways. And so Geneva, and that’s one good thing that I think there is really good bipartisan support, for [inaudible] hearing and tracking more closely to Geneva, when you’re talking about the torture or you’re talking about a lot of these other issues that have come up. And John McCain is going to be ranking on Armed Services and he and I have worked together on some other things and I think he’s going to be a perfect person to help with this issue looking forward. [crosstalk]
Question: I asked Nicky Tsongas in public and she responded about her soldier from Massachusetts that had been missing for a year or two, that well the fact is he’s been missing for a long time. Well, from day number one he’d
been referred to as a victim and, and missing, when from day one he was –
Claire McCaskill: POW.
Question: Legally a prisoner of war. International Red Cross says, “Yes, he’s done everything to meet – ” United States says, “Well, we’d like to have some more confirmation. That sure is him in the videotape but it would be nice to have a little bit more confirmation.”
Claire McCaskill: Well, I’ll go to work on that. [crosstalk] Thank you for bringing it to my attention, I appreciate it. Yes?
Question: Karen…from Harvesters, and this is about the economic stimulus – [inaudible] in the coming months. You know Harvesters provides food to about five hundred and fifty agencies here in Greater Kansas City and we are just seeing the need skyrocket. Our agencies are recording, some of them upwards of fifty percent of an increase in the demand. And we’re doing everything we can and the community has been very supportive in doing food drives and donating financial aid. But we simply can’t keep up with the demand and food stamps is one of the most effective and efficient ways to get out to people as quickly as possible, that assistance. And it does go to urban areas, rural areas, and helps fund those, those grocers. It gets back into the system, every bit of it and I wondered what the possibilities might be?
Claire McCaskill: I do not know. I have not heard that category mentioned but as I say, they haven’t shared a lot of information with Congress yet. They have been hunkered down, his economic team trying to come up with the best plan that would stimulate the economy so I will take that back and try to find out and thank you all to the people of Harvesters. And she’s darling. [audience laughter] That baby! Sister…!
Question: Hello! Listen, you know, I was disappointed, obviously you know who I voted for but, I was disappointed in the campaign that nobody is really talking about the women we serve everyday. The women who we give food to. The women, they’re not white collar workers, they’re not blue collar workers, they’re workers that do the stinking jobs that you can’t live on. And I just, the numbers of homeless are going up, the number of homeless children are going up, the women without insurance are going up and I’ve been there a long time and it’s getting worse every year and we need, I know you’re a champion for them but we need a lot more because they’re not even in the conversation anymore. A lot of our mothers are green though, they don’t have any utilities at home! [audience laughter] But they are just being ig – I, I there’s so much going on. I have an eight year old adopted daughter who came out of the kitchen when I was out there the other day and said, “Guess what, Fannie Mae just died.” And that’s about as much as I understand about what’s going on in economics, I know it’s bad and I know this – these women are, are, have been this way a long time, and they’re trying so hard. So I don’t know if there is an answer. Missouri’s a bad state to be in if you’re a poor woman or children. You’re pretty well last in everything. [voice: “Yep.”] And proud to be there. But I don’t know what we can do.
Claire McCaskill: Well, I do think that there’s, I think there’s a reason to be hopeful.
Question: Is there?
Claire McCaskill: I think there is. I think you’ve got people in positions, both in Jefferson City and in Washington that get it. [voice: “Okay.”] You know, you saw an awful lot of talk, I know there was a lot of talk about the middle class, but essentially what we’re talking about are a set of policies that stop the divide. You know, right what we’ve been going towards in this country over the last eight years is a weakening of the middle. And when you weaken the middle is what happens is you either get a whole bunch of rich folks and a whole bunch of poor folks and nobody in the middle. The healthier the middle class is, the more it brings up those folks that are in fact, you know trying to figure out how to work two jobs and actually even fantasize about meeting their child’s teacher. And taking the bus.
Question: Keep working on it.
Claire McCaskill: I will, it’s really good to see you. She’s a saint by the way.
Question: Oh no, no.
Claire McCaskill: She hates it when I say that! But really, she’s our own Mother Teresa in Kansas City. Yes?
Question: Bernardo…of the Hispanic Economic Development Corporation here in Kansas City, welcome home.
Claire McCaskill: Thank you. Yeah, I can see my old house from here! I used to live in that neighborhood right there. It’s [inaudible] Islands is where I lived when I lived here.
Question: It’s where my sister and brother-in-law live now.
Claire McCaskill: It’s a great neighborhood.
Question: Yes, it is. And I think I have, kind of somewhat of a knack here for some of these questions about the economy. Just a few minutes ago the Kauffman Foundation released a report, the entrepreneurial activity index has written in its poll that, once again formulated where we already know that any, really what’s to see the injection into the economy is a lot of small business, my core business is there, the ones that are pumping blood into the economy and that color of blood is green in this case, I mean, they’re hiring people, they’re producing a product or service. With that, and the fact, you know, at many times the job training for, for folks in the state and this country, and throughout the whole campaign we heard about, you know, from both, both sides of the case that small business was a big priority for, for our country. And even my core businesses which are really the folks that we work for, those that are ma and pops literally, the one and two, three employees, thirty-five, fifty thousand dollars worth of start up happening. Again after everything’s said and done, the dust has settled, you know now they’re talking about, you know now we’ve got to start tightening the belt, making some cuts and the first places they’re looking at are removing those training monies for the job training. Reducing technical assistance monies for those jobs, those folks who want to start businesses. anybody, anybody – [crosstalk]
Claire McCaskill: I don’t know where they’re talking about doing that. The Obama administration is talking about doing that?
Question: No, no, I’m saying, what you’re seeing now. And maybe not so much at the national, but you’re starting to see it more locally and in some areas about where we’ve got to tighten up the belt now, okay, we have to start reducing some of these training services, technical assistant services and across the board and wherever that lands. I mean, it’s more of a concern I guess that I have Senator but how can we assure that, not only at the national level but here locally, and I think, I’m really hopeful with Governor-elect Nixon to do some things. But how can we assure that some of these monies for training and technical assistance stay where they’re supposed to and even expanding because we’re seeing that that’s an injection of money into our economy.
Claire McCaskill: I don’t, I mean, I’ll be happy and we can look into some of the job training and technical assistance money, federal money and make sure that you’re not seeing some kind of a evisceration of that, I don’t sense that, that’s something that would be a priority for this administration, I think you’re going to see some cuts. And frankly, you know everybody in this room I’d have hope that everybody cuts a little, we need, we need to become leaner and meaner and then we’re going to be able to do more of the programs that really work. So we’ve got to find some programs that, my sense is that this administration, the new administration would not be going at job training and technical assistance for small businesses. In fact, if there’s any tax cuts in the stimulus, it will be tax cuts that will be focused on small business. And I think they see that is a huge help to small bu
siness right now is to give them some kind of help with inventory control or those kinds of things or depreciation. The kinds of things that would allow the tax bill to be a little bit lighter for people that were doing the serious heavy lifting on job creation, which is small businesses.
Staffer: We have time for one more question.
Claire McCaskill: Everybody who still has a question, what time is it? [audience laughter] I swear, I drive them crazy. It’s three o’clock, okay. I can actually stay here until three thirty. Okay? So everybody who still has a question, raise your hand. Alright, I’m going to count them out, okay? You count them out for me. One, you’ve already asked one sorry. [audience laughter] Ask again, okay? One, two, three, four, five, six. Hi Mr. UAW. Seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. Okay, I see eleven questions and I’ve got thirty minutes. So, keep that in mind if I’m going to get, don’t, don’t cheat now. If you didn’t have your hand up then, don’t raise your hand later, okay? Because we’re going to take just those eleven questions but we have to go fairly fast if we’ve got thirty minutes, okay? But then I can say I answered every question. Yeah! [audience laughter] Alright, let’s, let’s start – and try not to make your question too long so that we can get to all eleven of you, okay? So, start up here, I know you had your hand up. And didn’t you have a question earlier?
Question: Yes, I did.
Claire McCaskill: Okay, well did you just have your hand up?
Question: No, no I had a question.
Voice: He’s just being polite.
Claire McCaskill: Oh, you’re being too polite. Okay, go ahead. [audience laughter]
Question: Well, this is more of a local issue. We, we are concerned about the stimulus package and, and the transportation elements of it and I understand your concern about what the rural areas are going to want but we are trying to get more walking and bicycling and transit in Kansas City. This is what I know about so I can’t say I know about the rural areas or any of that. So we’re getting some support from the council but we’re not getting a whole lot of support from MODOT. And we’ve been working with them for several years and we are trying to get a bicycle pedestrian trail on the Paseo Bridge right now and all the other bridges crossing the Missouri River so, this would be a great green solution and green jobs and it’s, you know, it’s social justice and stuff – [crosstalk]
Claire McCaskill: Do you know him?
Question: Oh yeah, I know him. [audience laughter]
Voice: I was going to say. What group is this? What’s the group?
Question: Well, I’m with Let’s Go, KC and the Kansas City Bicycle Club. Let’s Go is a –
Claire McCaskill: You know, you guys all came up to Washington not too long ago on the bicycles.
Question: Well, I didn’t get there, but –
Claire McCaskill: A lot of you did. I had meetings with lots of them.
Claire McCaskill: Let me – I don’t want to cut you off but I want to get to everybody.
Question: That’s fine.
Claire McCaskill: I think a couple of things. Jay Nixon will appoint people to the MODOT commission. I think it’s time you that all begin advocating. Find a candidate you want to go on the highway commission that is going to be an advocate for your issue. I don’t know that there’s ever been anybody that’s ever been on the highway commission that had a good working knowledge of all of these alternatives to highway construction and I think you’re going to have some opportunities there, and I think this is a guy who, you know, I know for a fact is bicycles and does all these kinds of things, he’s a big river guy and so I think Jay Nixon would be very open to your suggestions of a candidate to the highway commission that would be friendly on, on walking and bicycling and all of these things.
Question: That would be great because the money is just not been spent in that area.
Claire McCaskill: Yep.
Question: Alright, last week was the sixtieth anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. What are, as a Congress, what are we doing to be, we obviously have the most individual freedom in any nation in the world. What as a Congress are we doing to spread that out amongst the world? Are we taking any UN Resolutions and making them American resolutions also?
Claire McCaskill: Well, I think first of all we have a, one of the – not, not a perfect record, not an unblemished record about human rights in this country. But certainly we have one of the better records. We have things in our history that we are not proud of but we’ve made great strides and by the way, the first Tuesday in November wasn’t a bad one. That was a pretty good stride for our country in terms of the quality and respect for everyone. [audience applause] So I, I think that what we’ll do, especially under this administration, I think you’re going to see a more global outlook in terms of foreign policy. I think you’re going to see him willing to sit down with bad guys and be confrontational about some of the things that are going on around the world. I think you’re going to see a lot more focus about what’s really behind all the problems like Dafur. Which, you know, China, by the way, oh, she left. But China is in, in the mix in regards to what’s going on in Africa. So, I, I’m very hopeful and optimistic that the new, national security team of this country is going to be much more sensitive to being proactive about violations of human rights around the world. Okay? Yes.
Question: Claire you know, I’ve been working…
Claire McCaskill: Good to see you! [crosstalk]
Question:…on transit for a long time and we failed again with the light rail proposal [audience laughter] in November but the three counties in Missouri, you probably are aware, are in the process of developing a new plan. One of our Platte County commissioners is here today. And, and I just want you to be aware. I think that in terms, this is not in terms of a stimulus package because that, this is not really ready yet I think for that kind of quick action but we are working on it and it is going to happen, you’re going to start seeing things after the first of the year.
Claire McCaskill: Good, that’s terrific. I would like that very much. I would like that very much.
Question: Thank you.
Claire McCaskill: Yes? Yes?
Question: I had a question about HR 44 that requires the third party testing for all products for children twelve years and under. And I think the intent of the bill was excellent, I don’t want my daughter to have jewelry ladened with lead or poison but however, I was reading this and I went to the CPSC website also to do a little more research on this and it encompasses all products for children twelve and under, which means clothing, underwear, books, everything. And as a small business I cater to one of a kind small quantity cotton clothing for children, I’ll have to pay for third party testing for all of my items and each component. Like if I have a dress that has thread elastic, each component will have to be tested –
Claire McCaskill: Oh, we didn’t mean that.
Question: Well, I guess there needs to be some clarification –
Claire McCaskill: Yeah, we – you know, we can help you with that. [voice: “Okay.”] I’m on that committee. I’m on the Commerce Committee and was very involved in all the CPSC stuff and, and so, let me, let’s see if we can’t help.
Question: Any clarification would be appreciated.
Claire McCaskill: That’s scary.
Question: Well, I have to close my business until [inaudible] [crosstalk].
Claire McCaskill: Okay, will you guys make sure, and by the way, you guys all be nice to Tamika on the way out because she said one more question and I said, “No, never mind, I’m going to go on.” Okay, yes?
Question: My name is
Thomas…and I do transportation by day but I’m not here to talk about transportation we have too many other related experts. But by night, I have a foundation that deals with aging seniors and my concern is something that no one tends to talk about, is the business of aging and the services for senior citizens and their quality of life. Nothing has been said about helping these seniors maintain their quality of life, keeping their houses, and being able to live successfully as we try to stimulate the economy. But we’re leaving behind a group of people who have been there to keep things together. No one’s talking about it, no one’s addressing that issue. And I’d like to, I’d like to know more about, and see more activity in senior services so that they can rejoice over this stimulus.
Claire McCaskill: Well, I, I want to make sure that you, that your foundation, what you’re doing gets hooked up with the folks that, the different programs of aging at the state. I mean, I know because I audited over there. There’s a variety of different programs, you’re probably familiar with some of them. You know, I remember when they were about to do away with those. I remember when they were about to do away with all the senior centers. Whether it’s, God bless his soul, Reverend Abel Senior Center, one of the first ones that was well done in the year before in Kansas City and I now know that there are others that have been done, where you do have a place for people to go during the day for activities. That’s stuff’s all really important and my mom’s going to be so glad that you asked that question because she turned eighty this summer. And, and we’re lucky that she lives with us and it’s tremendous to have her there. I, I am sensitive to that and I think there are, and I think there are probably more grant programs out there that you might not be aware of that we could maybe help you with. Federal grant programs that are geared towards seniors – [crosstalk]
Question: I’ve been searching some of the programs and I’m finding there’s more money for youth programs, and education of youth than there are for seniors.
Claire McCaskill: Well, you, that surprises me, you know why? cause’ typically we spend more time worrying about people over seventy than we do about young people because people over seventy all vote. [voice: “Yeah.”] And so typically, we spend a lot of – we don’t spend a lot of time at all debating college tuition which has gone sky high. We spend a whole lot of time debating prescription drug costs. So I think there may be more out there and why don’t we try to get hooked up with you and see if we can’t look and see that you’re aware of everything that’s going on because, you’re right, that they deserve quality of life. They’ve worked hard and they deserve to have peace of mind. And by the way, they’re now, our life expectancy every year keeps going up and up and up so. Eighty’s the new, sixty. [audience laughter]
Question: I’m Rick…, I manage a non-profit called Artstech a Center for Youth Enterprises and after I talk with you, I need to talk to this gentlemen and find out just where all this youth education money is. I can’t find it! [audience laughter]
Claire McCaskill: Well, you guys are sitting together!
Question: I know!
Claire McCaskill: He says it’s all for the kids and not enough for the old people. You say it’s all for the old people and not…
Note: At this point we lost battery power on the recorder and had to spend time making sure we could recover the previous hour before we could start recording again.