DENMARK – U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Cory Booker says Americans need to work together to solve the country’s problems.
“I’m really one of those people that believes we need to put the united back in these states. We need to put the indivisible back in this one nation under God,” he said.
Booker traveled to Voorhees College on Sunday evening to listen to the concerns of citizens and discuss issues with local elected officials.
He said, “I believe that a lot of Americans are beginning to lose faith in the ability to solve our own problems. I believe a lot of Americans are feeling left out or left behind.
“A lot of Americans are beginning to believe that the forces tearing our country apart are stronger than the forces that are holding us together.”
Booker stated that he does not share those beliefs.
“I believe that our sense of common purpose, our sense of connection, our power and our unity is our best hope,” Booker said.
He said his candidacy is driven by the current state of America.
“Who are we going to be? Are we going to be more divided? Are we going to be more hateful? Are we going to be more hurting, or are we going to join together?” Booker said.
“I’m running for president definitely to win an office, but this is much more than about an election. For me, the spirit of America is in the balance. The soul of our country is in the balance,” Booker said.
During Sunday’s event, Booker held a panel discussion with Bamberg County’s elected officials, and answered questions from audience members.
Panel member Sharon Hammond, who serves on Bamberg County Council, said the lack of health care is a daunting issue.
“We don’t have the transportation that’s necessary to get us to specialized hospitals. We don’t have the jobs to help people pay for the medicine that they need,” Hammond said.
“That is because we are a hospital desert,” Hammond said. “It’s just not Bamberg County, but our surrounding counties.
“We have a very sickly, elderly population here, and people can’t afford to travel. They have to pay somebody else to take them to a hospital, and this is money that they may need for food or medicine.”
Bamberg County Councilman Evert Comer, who also served as a panelist, said Medicaid is vital to providing health care in the rural community.
“We need you in Washington to make some kind of national effort … so that states cannot refuse to accept the Medicaid expansion,” Comer said.
Comer also expressed concerns about road and water infrastructure.
“We’ve got entirely too many dirt roads. When it rains, the EMS can’t get to people and a lot of times students can’t get to school because they live down dirt roads,” Comer stated.
“In these times, you have water distribution systems that’s 100 years old and they have the old, outdated and dilapidated pipes that create all kinds of undesirables in the water,” Comer said.
Booker addressed both council member’s statements, saying that all of the issues that plague rural communities are intermingled.
“When you move a hospital out of a community, you move jobs out of that community, you move businesses that do business-to-business relationships with those hospitals and so you begin to unravel the very fabric of the community,” Booker stated.
“Local, state and federal should be working together in unison to go at these challenges,” Booker said.
Booker said the gap in infrastructure between rural and urban areas in massive, and that it has a negative impact on the rural areas.
“There’s no way a local community will have the resources to deal with that deficit,” Booker stated.
“Water infrastructure is something that is really critical. Broadband infrastructure -- how can I expect my children to compete globally if they don’t even have a pathway to internet access and to the 21st-century economy?” Booker asked.
Booker stated that one way to fund rural infrastructure needs is, “by raising the corporate tax rates.”
“That alone would produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that you could be investing in things like infrastructure,” Booker stated.
Booker also said, “I propose that we come out with a Marshall Plan for the United States of America to help reinvest and build up the infrastructure of our country.”
Booker outlined three issues that he will devote attention to during his campaign.
“We’re going to raise the minimum wage,” Booker said. “The minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, and now that minimum wage, if you work a full-time job, you are below the poverty line. That is un-American.”
“If I am president of the United States, I will fight to make sure that we have paid family leave,” Booker said. He stated that parents should not have to choose between going to work and having to tend to their children’s needs.
Booker said that early education will be one of his priorities.
“We need universal pre-school in all of this country,” Booker stated.
Booker said universal pre-school could help America compete globally.