ROCHEPORT — About 30 local residents joined Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia for a roundtable discussion Monday at Laborers Local Post 955 organized in support of the Kerry-Edwards campaign, and voiced strong concerns on rising health-care premiums and what they see as an increasingly-bleak economic outlook.
Almeta Crayton, First Ward representative to the Columbia City Council and a participant in the roundtable discussion, highlighted strains on the middle class that she said are the result of a drab economy, and the perceived “lack of conversation about double-digit unemployment” in some parts of Missouri.
“When you talk about the working poor, they’re not rich enough to not need any help, and they’re not poor enough to get social service help,” Crayton said. “So they’re caught in between those gaps and so they’re not talked about, they’re not discussed.”
Warner emphasized what he said is a need for greater job training.
“The day and age where you could get a job just because you had a good work ethic and you didn’t have any skills” is over, he said, adding that he foresees greater investments in job training as the only solution to current unemployment trends.
President Bush proposed a job training program in April that he said will double the number of trained workers from 200,000 to 400,000.
“As this labor force becomes more educated and more skilled for the jobs of the 21st century, we’ll stay the leading country in the world,” Bush said.
Other participants in the discussion included David Anderson of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Phyliss Fugit of the Boone County Democratic Party Central Committee and Ted Farnen of the Missouri Laborers’ Legislative Committee.
Warner, a Democrat, invoked a famous saying by former President Ronald Reagan to condemn the Bush administration’s record on job growth, health care, fiscal discipline and foreign policy.
“Remember back in 1980 when Ronald Reagan, in the middle of that debate, looked over and said, ‘Well, are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Warner asked the audience. “If you look at the Bush administration’s record over the last three and a half years, I think the answer is a pretty convincing ‘no.’”
Warner went on to emphasize what he called his more moderate and conservative stances, and contrasted what he called “true fiscal conservatism” with the economic policies of the Bush administration.
“I am a fiscal conservative, supporter of Second Amendment rights … I’m a NASCAR man,” he said. “And as a conservative, I lean very strongly towards true fiscal conservatism — somebody who pays the bills and doesn’t pass on the deficit.”
The Bush administration has argued that the current budget deficit was also induced by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.