Podcast | S01 Episode 6: Rep. Neal talks election, Trump, Democrats
PITTSFIELD - The Democratic Party needs to "reset" it's priorities and pay more attention to the working class.
That, according to U.S. Congressman Richard Neal, is one of the principal paths his party needs to follow to regain the support of American voters.
Neal spoke on Friday afternoon with Eagle editor Kevin Moran for the Berkshire Eagle podcast hosted and produced by longtime journalist Mark Mills.
Neal spoke on a wide variety of topics on Friday, all of which were connected to the recent presidential race between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The subjects included immigration, the Affordable Care Act, the potential Russian influence on the election and the nature of national elections in the 21st century. When Moran asked Neal how the Democratic party lost the blue-collar vote, a segment of the population that the party had long held, Neal was quick to respond.
"People see [Democrats] in a different light now," he said. "They feel we are more in touch with the cultural aspect of America, and less in touch with the economic aspect.
"Think about this," he said, "55 percent of union households voted for Trump.
"Americans have had no raises in 12 years. Eight to 9 million people are working two part-time jobs. These are people who want to work full-time, but they can't.
"What we've seen is that the head of the union votes Democratic," he concluded. "But the rank-and-file did not.
"There are," he said, "a lot of issues coursing through the U.S. But the economy is No. 1"
Neal discussed a host of other topics with Moran and Mills. He noted, for example, that Trump has walked back his original position to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. In a recent interview on the CBS News shows "60 Minutes" Neal said, Trump indicated he would favor keeping parts of the health insurance law. Those would be retaining the clause that forbids companies from denying coverage to people based on their pre-existing conditions, as well as allowing young people up to 26 years old to remain on their parents' insurance.
"Both of those aspects are widely popular," Neal said.
The other point he made about ACA was that removing that legislation would strip insurance from 20 million Americans.
"The problem is, what do you do with those 20 million people?" he said.
In the wake of Trump's stated intent to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, Neal said, "I have yet to meet a Republican or a Democrat who believes that Mexico will pay for that wall."
Neal pointed out that the Obama administration has been the most aggressive administration in history when it comes to deporting undocumented immigrants. More than 2 million have been deported during Obama's last term, said Neal.
He also pointed out that undocumented citizens put in $7 billion in Social Security payments, even though they do not benefit.
"They use false identities to stay here," he said.
"We all agree that we don't want undocumented felons in the U.S.," said Neal. "But I talk to farmers and laborers all over Western Mass. Undocumented aliens work hard and they show up for work. Immigration done right is a benefit to America."
He pointed out that Trump's assertion to broaden the coal industry will be difficult, in large part because many of the jobs the industry has lost are now done by mechanical workers, while natural gas is simply cheaper to process and use, he said.
He said he would urge Congress to investigate the Russian impact on the election, with economic sanctions the ultimate punishment should a link be found. The Russian economy is smaller than California's, said Neal. The country's bluster, he said, hides a weak economy.
He opined that national elections are now driven by fake news sites shared widely online.
"It's more about style than substance," he said."We need to get away from news as entertainment."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
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