Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Kimberly Graham visited with voters of Creston Wednesday evening at A&G Restaurant and Lounge.
Graham began the conversation by sharing stories of her childhood in Iowa, her family life, her home in Indianola and her career as an attorney for kids of participants in Family Treatment Court, a job she continues to do despite being on the campaign trail.
“It’s certainly more of a calling than a profession, because I’m definitely not getting rich from doing it,” said Graham with a laugh. “I was actually working all day before coming here.”
Multiple factors led to declaring her candidacy, Graham said, but a notable reason was the results of the 2016 presidential election and the aftermath.
“It wasn’t like everything about the world changed that day,” “But when you have the leader of the strongest country on Earth bullying and allegedly sexually assaulting people and claiming there were good people on the side of Neo-Nazis? It’s unacceptable to me, to let my son grow up in a country where that is part of our leadership.”
Graham said she believes the key to creating a better America is through investing in children and youth by means of paid family leave, free childcare, debt-free education and equal opportunity for children regardless of wealth.
“We have got to be investing in ages zero through three if we believe in our nation’s future,” said Graham. “All children should have enough food and no child should be in poverty.”
This mindset shapes much of the policy she supports, Graham said, particularly regarding access to food and education.
“The biggest indicator for academic success is household income,” said Graham. “Children in poverty will start off steps behind a child from a household with plenty of food and a decent place to live. We have to make it so that’s not the way anymore.”
Graham believes a sweeping legislation package to improve the quality of life for all American children is the best step forward, comparing the idea to the Americans With Disabilities Act.
“Tom Harkin spent so many of his years in the Senate trying to get that past so people with disabilities could have the things they need to live a better life with more opportunities, and I think we need something like that for children in this country,” said Graham. “I think we need to guarantee paid parental leave like every other developed nation has. We are the only developed nation without a universal childcare program. We just don’t invest in our children at the rate as other nations, but we certainly have the money to do that.”
Other ideas supported by Graham include increasing tax rates on the wealthy, raising minimum wage and ensuring that money granted by farm bills and tax cuts benefit the smaller businesses as opposed to larger ones.
“There are a lot of incentives and subsidies for these massive farming organizations that just don’t need them,” said Graham. “We do need to be providing incentives and giving tax breaks to smaller businesses that need them to keep going.”
Graham said she doesn’t believe the characterization of entitlements and social services as ‘free,’ saying that isn’t the case.
“When you make investments in people, they pay off,” said Graham. “You’ll never hear me say ‘free this’ or ‘free that’ because nothing is free. Our libraries aren’t free. If I go to the library here in Creston, the books cost money, we pay the librarian, we keep the lights on, but we all pitch in a little bit to pay for it. That way I can walk into the library and hand them a library card and I can check out a book.”
Two larger pieces of policy Graham endorses are the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. Graham said while believing in both pieces of legislation, she takes issue with the naming conventions for Medicare For All.
“I wish they hadn’t called it that,” said Graham. “They should have called it something completely different, because it’s not Medicare. It’s better, bigger and different. It covers vision, hearing aids, dental, mental health and nursing home care. None of those are covered by the basic current plan for Medicare.”
Graham said the current state of American healthcare is ‘unacceptable,’ providing stories of citizens who were too wealthy to qualify for Medicare but not wealthy enough to afford the cost of living in a nursing home.
“You see people spending their money and selling their homes just so they can be poor enough to qualify,” said Graham. “Healthcare should be a human right in a nation this wealthy. We don’t sell human rights. They are not commodities to be sold to the highest bidder and if you have no money, you get no rights. Until we have more people in power saying that, it’s never going to change.”