Beto O'Rourke, Democratic presidential candidate, answered questions from area residents at a town hall meeting Sunday at the Creston Restored Depot.
O'Rourke opened with a short introduction about coming together as Americans and his stance on some of the issues facing the American public in this election.
"We've got to find those things that bring us together," O'Rourke said.
"Medicare for America" is a plan to allow citizens to keep the health insurance coverage they have or opt into Medicare for coverage. One member of the audience asked how O'Rourke planned to pay for this insurance coverage.
O'Rourke said it would cost $2 to 3 trillion, but that is less than the cost for one of the current largest providers of mental health care in America — the county jail system. O'Rourke explained, not only is it more expensive to take care of citizens who are incarcerated because they were unable to afford mental health care, adequate care without jail would allow them to lead a productive life and contribute to society.
He also said that improving access to health care, including mental health, will take a bipartisan effort.
"There's no one here, I believe, who thinks that our current system of health care is the right one for this country," said O'Rourke. "Explain to me how the wealthiest, the most powerful country on the face of the planet sees people dying of diabetes in the year 2019.... We do not lack for resources or medical technology or innovation, just the political will and the ability to bridge the divide between us."
Kevin Shilling of Adair County later reiterated the question about paying for Medicare for America.
O'Rourke said one step toward paying for the increased cost of Medicare would be to eliminate the arbitrary cap for Social Security taxes on income, which is currently $130,000.
Lisa Ann Spilman identified herself as a military sexual trauma survivor and asked O'Rourke whether he supports the Military Justice Improvement Act, which would change the way the military handles sexual assault claims by moving the authority to prosecute outside the accused's chain of command to a trained prosecutor.
Spilman spoke of the effect unaddressed sexual trauma has on veterans suicide rate.
O'Rourke said he does support the bill and pointed to his record on improving veterans' health care in Texas where the wait times for mental health care have been reduced.
Mustafa Bey talked about the recent racially charged incidents in the U.S. and asked O'Rourke what he feels is the appropriate response to such a situation in the future.
"I think it begins with treating one another with the most profound respect we can possibly muster," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke agreed that hate crimes have gone up in the last three years and criticized President Trump's use of offensive words such as calling asylum seekers "an infestation" as a partial cause.
He also stated that a necessary step towards preventing social injustice is to be sure the voices of "people of color" are heard. He said voting rights should be protected, and he promoted redistricting done by citizens instead of politicians, who he said have historically drawn districts with an eye towards silencing minorities.
O'Rourke spoke of rewriting the immigration policies to reflect American values and heritage and allowing "Dreamers" —undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have lived their entire lives in the U.S. — to become citizens.
Shilling asked about O'Rourke's plan to eliminate fossil fuels. Another audience member added that farm machinery runs on fossil fuels.
O'Rourke reminded the audience that his plan to limit and eliminate fossil fuel usage is gradual. His said his plan looks for net-zero green house gas emissions by 2050, and he stated that any discussion of how these goals will be met should include farmers' input.
When asked about his pledge to not accept money from Political Action Committees (PACs), O'Rourke stated that accepting money from such groups, whether he agrees with them or not, causes a perception of conflict of interest and is part of the reason Americans don't trust their government.
O'Rourke said that taking donations only from private citizens does put him at a disadvantage in fundraising, but he pointed out that his organization was able to raise $80,000 in Texas, the most ever raised for a senate race, without accepting money from PACs.