Kerry returns for town hall meeting

The mounted police officers on each corner of the intersection of North Teutonia and West North avenues spurred amusement among children and curiosity among adults. One passerby even called out, "What's going on?"

"John Kerry," the officer replied.

The Democrat who has all but received his party's nomination visited Wisconsin for the first time since the Feb. 17 primary to have a town hall meeting with Gov. Jim Doyle. The event took place Thursday at the Northside Branch YMCA, 1350 W. North Ave.

The Sheriff's Department and the Milwaukee Police Department were out in full force to escort Kerry and provide security for him. Attendees had to walk through a metal detector to enter the venue.

Kerry focused on his economic plan but answered questions from the audience on health care, renewable and non-renewable energy sources and the war in Iraq. Members of Marquette's Students for (President George W.) Bush stood across from the event, displaying their support of the president with signs.

"Students for Bush, together with school choice and family values activists from the African-American community were out in force today supporting the president," said Students for Bush Chair Daniel Suhr, College of Arts & Sciences sophomore, in an e-mail after the event. "While John Kerry was inside trying to ignore 308,000 new jobs created in March alone, we were outside advancing the president's message of life, growth and security."

"George Bush has promised that after Sept. 11, and after the recession that we would create 5.1 million jobs," Kerry said. However, 1.8 million jobs have been lost since he took office. "The president is only seven million jobs below his promise."

Kerry talked at length about his plan to keep American jobs from moving overseas. He blamed Bush's tax plans for making the American worker subsidize corporations who choose to move jobs.

He referred to what he called a "loophole" in U.S. tax codes that allows corporations that move jobs overseas to defer paying income taxes. He said by closing that loophole, repealing Bush's tax cuts and offering tax cuts to businesses that stay in the states, "98 percent of Americans will get a tax cut … and 99 percent of American businesses will get a tax cut."

Suhr remained skeptical.

"John Kerry and Jim Doyle just don't get it," Suhr said. "Their economic views are all about higher taxes on families and small business. Kerry's tax hikes will squelch economic growth, discourage entrepreneurs, end job expansion and bring the recovery to a screeching halt."

Kerry also offered a "very precise," "no flim-flam" plan for reducing health care costs. Part of his plan included taking "catastrophic" cases, defined by Kerry as cases costing over $50,000, out of the private health care system to drive down prices and increase benefits.

"My health care plan, if we pass it right away," will provide coverage for 97 percent of Americans in three years, Kerry said. He urged attendees to review his plan on his Web site.

"I want everybody to understand this," he said, asking people to tell their friends and neighbors about his plan.

Political analysts have predicted grass roots, word-of-mouth campaigning will be important in November's election.

An 11-year-old boy asked Kerry about renewable and non-renewable energy sources.

"God only gave America three percent of the world's oil supply," Kerry said. He said the Middle East has 65 percent of the world's oil.

"Either way it's a finite resource," he said.

Kerry wants more research into gasoline additives, such as ethanol, to ideally decrease the amount of oil America consumes.

Kerry also talked about the war in Iraq.

"It would be inappropriate for me to come here and not talk about Iraq," he said at the beginning of his speech. The American people and their leadership have to "ask the right questions" about Iraq.

"Why are we almost alone in carrying the risks and burdens for something the entire world has a stake in?" Kerry asked. "No one's security is advanced by a failed Iraq." Of Europe and Iraq's Arab neighbors he said: "These countries are distinctly absent from the risk-bearing.

"Within weeks of being inaugurated, I'll go to the (United Nations), and we'll rejoin the community of nations in a proper way," Kerry said.

"I thought (Kerry's speech) was wonderful," said Milwaukee resident Tom Spehert. Spehert likes Kerry's health care and education plans, but can't pick a favorite Kerry plan. "There's so much stuff that's been screwed up, it's hard to pick one."