At a town hall meeting in Littleton last night, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) faced repeated questions about difficulties in accessing healthcare, rising tuition and student loan interest, veterans’ and women’s rights, and restoring people’s faith in democracy.
“I really believe, you know, that the middle class is at risk in this country,” said Bennet. “…If I had to sum up the last ten years of town halls, it’s really easy for me to do it…. That is, it’s people coming and saying that, ‘Michael, we’re working really hard, but we can’t afford some combination of housing, healthcare, higher education, or early childhood education.'”
“It is absolutely true that we are spending twice as much on healthcare as every single country in the world–in the industrialized world,” said Bennet. “…I hope that what we are able to do is take politics out of our healthcare debate and focus on what we need to do as Americans to move the country forward, because I think there is a huge opportunity for us because of how much money we are wasting in this system today that really isn’t working well enough for everybody.”
Bennet was not shy when it came to naming off some of his upcoming legislation that he believes will positively impact Coloradans and Americans. Among his bills are climate legislation; the American Family Act, which, “in one year, would cut childhood poverty in America by 40 percent. It would end two dollar day poverty forbids in America, and give the middle class a big tax cut in this country,” according to Bennet; bills investing in infrastructure and education; and the CORE Act–co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO)–which, according to Bennet, would be “the most important public land bill we’ve passed in a quarter of a century.”
At one point, the subject of abortion arose after a former Texas resident asked for Bennet’s view on the subject.
“I strongly support a woman’s right to choose–I always have, and I think it’s critical to understand how under-pressure and at-risk it is, in many parts of the country because of what’s happened…. And I will say, [abortion] is a place where we have stopped [Republicans] over the last eleven years, and we will continue to do that,” said Bennet, to a round of applause.
Bennet also brought up waste and excessive tolls on individuals as a result of education costs.
“I think one of the things we’ve gotta do is retool our education system to be able to put people in a position to be able to benefit from that, and we’re not doing that at all right now,” said Bennet. “We’re not doing that at all. And the biggest divisions in our society now are people who are getting higher degrees and people who are not.”
Bennet proposed, moving forward, to reduce income requirements by 20 percent, which “doesn’t solve the problem, but mitigates the problem;” reduce interest on student loans; and make college less expensive.
Bennet also managed to cover immigration and citizenship issues, if briefly. According to Bennet, President Donald Trump’s assertions on immigrations clash with his own beliefs about America.
“The view that Donald Trump, I think, has run his campaign on–is running his campaign on–is at war with where our best traditions have been,” said Bennet.
Bennet was a member of the Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group of senators that attempted to pass a major immigration reform bill in 2013–the bill passed in the Senate 68-32, but expired in the House.
Many of Bennet’s points throughout the meeting circled around returning the democratic process–specifically, voting and law-making–to its former glory.
“Some of the young people that are here today–they’ve never lived in a democracy that works. They don’t know what it looks like,” said Bennet. “They’ve only been in a country that’s been at war for the entire time they’ve been alive…. We can’t even pass a basic infrastructure bill in the United States congress anymore.”
Bennet stressed that the upcoming election could be “the most important election of our lives.”
For Bennet, some of the most important hurdles standing in the way of a healthy democracy included getting more people out to vote, and “structural issues” in democracy, which he regarded as stemming from a few billionaires affecting outcomes in congress, and “political gerrymandering;” a way of drawing electoral districts that benefits certain political interests.
Bennet also addressed the broad issue of “media,” brought up by a concerned attendee.
“I am very, very worried about the state of our media. Very worried about the state of our politics generally,” said Bennet. “…We’ve had the collapse of content, and print media in this country, which is really creating a situation where we no longer have shared understanding of the facts.”
Trump has made the media climate much worse, according to Bennet, Trump doesn’t care about separation of powers or freedom of press and speech, according to Bennet.
“There’s so much we can do if we can pass this moment in our political system, and if we address some of the reforms that need to be addressed to make this system work,” said Bennet.