Business issues and the economy replaced the Iraq War as the top issue during the Democratic National Convention.
From discussions hosted by the AFL-CIO to the First Americans Council to the Women’s Caucus — employment is the focus. By early August, the economy had shed 463,000 jobs during seven straight months of losses. Health care, gasoline and food prices are cutting into companies’ bottom lines and into families’ paychecks.
Colorado delegates said the only way to pull the country out of the slump is through more jobs, focusing on technologies such as renewable energy.
“We’ll be more focused on renewable,” said U.S. Rep. John Salazar during the Colorado delegation breakfast. “And we will benefit from that in Colorado — we’ll send a message to oil companies, and we’ll be able to create new jobs from this new energy economy.”
The idea of renewable as an economic stimulus was echoed throughout the convention, including a “Solar Fair.”
“Every house should have some kind of solar power — it will increase incentives, increase efficiency,” Salazar said. “But there is enormous disparity between utilities — just look at what Xcel is doing versus what is going on in Colorado Springs. We’ll have to work on incentives to make more jobs in that field, to level the playing field.”
But the economic problems reach far beyond just job creation.
Health care remains an issue — as does free trade. While universal health care — in some form — is popular with the Colorado delegation, free trade received mixed reviews.
“Health care is tied in with the economy,” Salazar said. “And it can’t be ignored. In my district, the issue is both access and affordability. And it’s affecting the small employers — people can’t afford health insurance.”
Springs delegate James Tucker said that equality of care remains an issue.
“We need to see this issue addressed in some way,” he said. “We live in one of the greatest countries in the world; we need to have the greatest health care system.”
But Tucker said he believes the country’s economic woes stem from the same issue as its health care dilemma: corporate greed.
“First, and more important, we don’t have an economic policy in this country,” he said. “The only policy we have is one that enriches George Bush and his friends.”
International companies prey on the wealth that could be generated by small, local businesses, Tucker said.
“They provide jobs in the community, and they deserve the best system for taxes and jobs that we can give them,” he said. “Hopefully, the country will be able to start fresh and create a new policy that will bring jobs home from overseas, create more jobs in the United States.”
Tucker said he hopes pacts like the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico will be repealed. But Greeley delegate Pam Shaddock said that the country needs a re-education program, and shouldn’t withdraw from the global economy.
“In Weld County, we have fared better economically because of the renewable energy field,” she said. “But we’re a state leader in foreclosure. People are in horrible shape — the worst since the Depression. And we need to make sure we have programs in place to help people who lose their jobs — reeducate them, teach them how to work in a new field, particularly when jobs move overseas. They need something to fall back on.”
Weld County is experiencing the results of the economic downturn, she said, but like Colorado Springs’ heavy military influence, Greeley is somewhat cushioned because of production of solar panels and biofuels.
“As a country, we need to be able to compete successfully, be more nimble, energy-independent and sustainable to protect the country from these inevitable downturns,” she said.
A more nimble economy was echoed by Sheila Johnson, a delegate who spoke during the Women’s Caucus. An international business leader, Johnson said jobs and the economy were part of the reason she is a Democrat.
And economist Paul Krugman, speaking at a forum at the Labor Delegates Caucus, said he believed the labor movement was tied to the success of the middle class.
“When the labor movement is strong, the middle class fares well,” he said. “When it is weak, the middle class falls into the lower class.”