10/24/08 — Former governors talk presidential politics

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Former governors talk presidential politics

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 24, 2008 1:46 PM


Former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus, left, and former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, center, speak with Philip Baddour Jr. at Wilber's Barbecue in Goldsboro Thursday while campaigning for presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama. Mabus was joined by Hunt for an Economic Town Hall style meeting while touring eastern North Carolina on behalf of the Obama/Biden campaign.

With chants of "Yes we will," a small, but enthusiastic crowd of Sen. Barack Obama supporters listened Thursday as former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt and former Mississippi Gov. Ray Mabus encouraged them to remain active and to continue to work with only 12 days to go before Election Day on Nov. 4.

"If Barack Obama wins North Carolina, Barack Obama wins," Mabus said. "So make those 100 extra phone calls ... drive those extra two miles and knock on those doors ..."

Last-minute complacency, however, did not seem to be a problem for the nearly two dozen supporters listening at Wilber's Barbecue.

"Everything about Barack Obama excites me," said Maxine Cooper, a retired educator who drove from Kinston not only to show her support, but also to hear Hunt speak. "I'm especially interested in his way of reaching out to people."

She's also interested in the senator's economic plan -- one of the primary topics of discussion for the two governors.

"Middle-class people need some type of bailout to help them bring their quality of life back up to what standards should be in this country," Ms. Cooper said.

And that, Mabus explained, is exactly what Obama is offering working families.

"We have got to get the economy going again," he said. "We have got to."

That's why, he continued, "if you (family or business) make $250,000 or less (a year), your taxes will not go up. About 95 percent of the people who work for a living are going to get a tax cut if Barack Obama is elected president."

Such cuts, he added afterward, are likely to total about $1,000 per family.

"His economic plan, that's one thing I like. That'll reduce the tax burden on the middle class, and allow us to take home more of the money we earn to our families," said Chris Thomas of Goldsboro.

But, Mabus continued, under McCain, whom he accused of believing a $5 million income to be the threshold of rich, those tax cuts would go to oil companies and other big businesses.

"We've got a candidate in Barack Obama who knows you have got to give tax credits to create jobs in America, but who won't give tax breaks to companies who send jobs overseas," he said.

Just as important, he continued, is that Obama also is a candidate who is a "pretty strong pay-as-you-go person," meaning that "for every dollar he's proposing spending, there's a place for that dollar to come from."

In this case, the plan is for part of that to be from corporations and those making more than $250,000 a year -- a return, Mabus said, to the tax rates that existed under President Reagan.

And while he acknowledged the concern that some might have about such taxes hurting business investment and job creation, he noted that all the current tax breaks have done is help create "golden parachutes for corporate executives and jobs moved overseas."

Besides, he added, the tax credits for job creation in the United States, as well as those for green energy and health care, should more than make up the difference.

And that, Mabus said, is another priority -- making health care accessible to every American by the end of Obama's first term.

"We need a president who knows that every American needs affordable health insurance," he said.

Other issues Mabus mentioned included energy independence and education, specifically the need to support pre-school programs and make a college education more affordable.

The bottom line, Mabus said, is that an Obama presidency would be better for towns like Goldsboro and Mount Olive than a McCain administration.

"We need a president like Barack Obama who knows what's going on in small towns and rural America," he said, noting that Obama voted for the 2008 Farm Bill, while McCain did not.

Mabus also said the country needs a president who will return the country and military's focus to Afghanistan, a resurgent Taliban and Osama bin Laden.

But most of all, Hunt added, it's hope that Obama brings.

"This election is so important," he said. "This country now is in a fix. You're beginning to see the layoffs and I know there are a whole lot more coming. We've got a tough time coming, but we're going to come out of it. Think about the New Deal. ... We had the Great Depression and we had a president, Herbert Hoover, who just wanted to cut taxes, and that didn't work. ... But we did get out of it, because we elected a man named Franklin Roosevelt and we came together. If we commit to the right policies and if we have the right leadership ... I don't know that there's a leader as good at bringing us together as Barack Obama."