September 7, 2006

  1. Whether it's childhood nutrition, children's mental health, or the lack of insurance, parents have numerous worries when it comes to the health and well-being of our children. If elected, what proposals would be at the top of your list in addressing children's health issues?
    I support National Single-Payer Health Care. We are the last industrialized nation without it and that must be changed. "Promote the General Welfare" is one of the primary responsibilities of our government, embodied in the Constitution. As far as I am concerned, national health care comes under that edict.

    We are fortunate here in the state of Maine to have a program called "CubCare" that covers all children regardless of their family's financial status. This allows them to get well child care, immunizations and other healthcare as needed. And it allows families not to have to choose between food and medicine. This program should be expanded nationwide, until single-payer health care can be implemented, at which point it can be folded into the larger program.

    As for childhood nutrition, we know that a hungry child does not learn well. We need to make sure that both the school lunch program, and the breakfast program for low-income students, be fully funded to serve all the eligible students. I applaud the recent efforts to ban the junk food sold in school vending machines.

    As for children's mental health, we need enough counselors in schools, professionals who are qualified to spot budding problems (such as depression or acting out), who can work with teachers and parents, and who can give children the appropriate attention.
  2. As parents, we know that the early years are a critical time for our children's growth and development. If elected, what would you do to improve the early care and education of children, 0-5?
    Again here in Maine we are fortunate to have a program called "Parents Are Teachers Too" which provides intervention for all first time parents starting in the prenatal period. This program provides educational and social support for these parents so that they can succeed as parents. They can start day one of the child's life to give their children the enrichment they need in the home to succeed in school and life. This is another successful program that could be taken nationwide.

    We also need safe, appropriate, and cost-effective daycare for young children whose parents must work during those formative years. This may need to take the form of government subsidies based on income, beyond the child care tax credit if necessary.
  3. As parents, we try to help protect our children from harmful influences in popular culture and the media. If elected, what do you think the federal government can do to help parents deal with these issues?
    Parents are children's first line of defense. Monitoring of children's TV viewing, internet sites and email are the responsibility of parents, not the government. The V-Chip in televisions helps with that, as do computer programs that block access to objectionable sites. Accurate rating of movies, not just for sex but also for violence, would also be useful as age-appropriate guides.

    Beyond that, in our culture with Constitutionally protected freedom of speech, the marketplace determines much of what succeeds in popular culture. The power of the purse is the one parents can yield.
  4. Most American parents agree that it is becoming difficult to spend time with their families as they work harder to make ends meet. What policy proposal would top your list in helping address parents' needs for both time and money?
    Two approaches are needed here - more money in, and less money out.

    High on my priority list is establishing the minimum wage as a living wage. If the minimum wage were a living wage, then fewer low-income parents would have to have 2-3 jobs to make ends meet.

    Also, if the tax cuts granted to the rich were rescinded, we could ease the tax burden on the middle class and low-income workers. More money in.

    More education translates into better job prospects. College Pell Grants need to be greatly increased. Better still, free education through the college level at public institutions, one of my proposals, would also help parents land a better-paying job.

    National Single-Payer Healthcare would take the growing burden of health insurance costs off the backs employees who share in premium costs, or of parents who work at jobs without healthcare coverage. Less money out.

    National health care would also free some people to find jobs that best suit their talents and skills, rather than keeping a "day job" they do not enjoy, simply to keep their family protected and covered by health insurance. In some circumstances, parents might be able to start that home-based business they always dreamed about - by definition, working at home, with the kids.

    Beyond that, long-term, we need to get out of NAFTA, CAFTA, get rid of tax breaks for corporations that encourage the outsourcing of good, high-paying jobs, and get our manufacturing base back, as a national security issue.

Candidate Signature: Jean Hay Bright
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Contact phone number: 207-234-4224