Wild hosts town hall meeting
United States Representative Susan Wild, of Pennsylvania’s Seventh District, met generally friendly constituents in a town hall session Oct. 2 at Muhlenberg College’s Seegers Union Hall.
“I’m always happy to see young people involved in the political process,” said Wild, as she looked out at many younger citizens. However, there was an impressive cross section of ages at the event.
Enthusiasm was high, with mainly supportive attendees interspersed with a few who challenged her positions on several issues.
She was unequivocal in her answers, as she fielded questions from attendees lined up behind microphones on both sides of the large room. Aides had collected written questions from others in the audience who declined to wait in line; however, by the end of the two-hour event she had not addressed the written questions.
Impeachment: “I didn’t go to Washington with the idea of impeachment,” said Wild in response to a question. “Most of us in Congress are spending every single day on vital issues like education. I spend the vast majority of my time on education and labor. It is a mistake to think to think we are spending all our time on impeachment.”
“Adam Schiff (Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence) should hold those who refuse to cooperate in contempt,” said one woman. “He should fine them and put them in jail.”
“Adam Schiff is not a judge,” responded Wild. “He is a member of Congress who is charged with investigating. Congress has some limited powers to incarcerate people, but it’s never been used as far as I know. It’s our job to get all of the facts out; that will take us where it takes us.”
Tim Bullard of Allentown offered his opinion on the President. “Use Article 25 [25th Amendment to the Constitution] to get rid of the president. He’s crazy!”
“I’m not going to comment on the president’s frame of mind,” said Wild. “I came out for impeachment inquiry based solely on the Ukrainian phone call. We will see where the facts lead us.”
Health care: “Do you believe there should be a profit margin in health care?” asked one person.
“Unfortunately, for far too long, right up to present time, health care has been a privilege. I’d like us to get to the point where everybody who needs health care gets it. Health care is a right; it is not a privilege,” responded Wild.
“Even with the Affordable Care Act (ACA widely known as Obama Care), the cost has gone up,” said Wild.
“I would like to get the profit motive out of health care,” responded the Congresswoman. “Do I think that’s going to happen tomorrow? No. I have signed on for Medicare for all.
“But because I don’t think that happens right away, we must improve the ACA to include a public option in the next iteration of the Affordable Care Act,” she said.
Wild noted that “about 50 percent of you” have great health care through your employer, but about 50 percent do not have health coverage. Those people deserve good health coverage just as much. That’s where we need to get to.”
Climate: “Will you sign on with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (Dem-NY) and Ed Markey’s (Dem) Green New Deal?” asked Maura O’Reilly, a Muhlenberg College student.
“Green New Deal is a wonderful statement of aspirations and goals,” Wild responded. “I have not signed on to it, but I have worked very hard in the climate change space. I am as concerned about climate change as you are, I promise you that.”
“The wonderful thing about the Green New Deal,” said Wild, “is that it made all of us start talking about it and I think that is a positive thing.”
“I support H.R. 9, Climate Action Now (House of Representatives Bill 9),” said Wild, “which prevents the United States from withdrawing from the Paris climate accords.”
Wild said she supports the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividends Act (H. R. 763) to create a carbon trust fund.
Wild said she wants the energy industry to police itself. “We have to work on market-driven solutions.”
Wild is also committed to achieving a clean energy economy by 2050; “most prognosticators say it can be achieved before that.”
Education: “I am a very staunch believer in public schools,” said Wild. “We have an absolute obligation to support the public-school systems of the United States.
“Brown versus Board of Education 50 years ago and our schools are more segregated now than they were 50 years ago,” said Wild. “We need more equitable funding solutions. Education is funded by property taxes, but it is not fair to the taxpayer and not fair to the student.”
Wild said higher education has to be made more affordable. Higher education means higher wages, keeps people off the street; keeps our criminal justice system less busy. She said she is working on the higher education issue. She supports Pell Grants, which she wants expanded to people who wants: To get a certificate at LCCC.
“When people are afforded a good education,” said Wild, “their health outcomes are better and, guess what, that’s also good for seniors.”
Wild sees a good education as a path to a stronger economy that can support future retirements and a way to reduce income disparity. “I do believe in capitalism, but not in giving tax breaks to the 1 percent.
“It all starts at the top with appropriate funding,” said Wild.
One Muhlenberg student, Valerie, told Wild, some high school students in Allentown are paying $60 per month to ride public buses, which is contributing to high absentee rates.
“It always comes back to funding,” said Wild. “If you added the cost of busing to the Allentown school budget, the budget would implode.”
Wild expressed this opinion about Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education: “DeVos believes if you are rich enough, you can be educated.”
Mental Health: When a retired Allentown School District teacher said “more and more children are coming in with trauma in their background and [therefore] are more violent,” Wild said, “Teachers should be mental health [specialists]. Mental health problems don’t start at age 18. They generally develop earlier in life.”
She said she supports mental health evaluations for younger students. “One psychologist is shared by six to eight schools.”
Student loans: Wilder said she supports H. R. 63, a bill dealing with modernizing disclosure of the terms of student loans.
“The Federal government invested in me with one percent loans,” said Wild. “We’re working very hard on student loan issues.”
Justice: A retired Air Force veteran preface his question with a reference to Hillary Clinton having a private computer server and having “not spent one day in jail.” He said that if he had set up a private server to perform his duties, he would be in jail.
“Do you believe there is a two-tier justice system? One for constituents and one for politicians?”
“No,” said Wild (a lawyer by training). “I don’t believe there should be a two-tier system of justice and I don’t believe that there is. Politicians should be held to a higher standard of justice.”
China: “What are you going to help Trump fight China?” asked one attendee.
“They undermined our economy,” said Wild. “They have made inroads in Africa.”
Wild mentioned the plight of the Uyghurs in China’s concentration camps and said she was concerned about China’s use of facial recognition. She said she was working on [China issues] in the foreign affairs committee and concentrating on trade. “The playing field is not level. China is at [economic] war with us,” said Wild.
Military honors at funerals: She agreed with one veteran who suggested that the government fund 12 paid people in each congressional district to conduct military honors at funerals of veterans. The veteran said there are not enough people in the traditional military veterans’ organizations to do military honors at funerals.
Foreign wars: One man urged Wild to “support our troops, and best way is to bring our [forces] home.”
“I agree with you that there are far too many wars that go on for far too long to no good end,” responded Wild. “We voted to end the war in Yemen, but we were unable to override that [the President’s] veto.”
The “gig” economy. “[Many] independent contractors are not employees, [many] are slave workers. They are mis-classified as workers,” said Wild. “It’s a fraud, a tax fraud.”
Potty parity: Pat Ojea of Allentown asked if Wild would introduce a “potty parity” bill.
“I support LGBT rights,” said Wild.
Abortion: “I am firmly strong pro-choice,” she said.
Anti-Semitism: “Hate is hate. Fight all kinds of hate. I am deeply concerned about anti-Semitism around the world.”
Campaign finance: Get “money out of politics.” Wild supports H.R. 1 (to expand Americans’ access to the ballot box, reduce the influence of big money in politics, and strengthen ethics rules for public servants). “Big Pharma has two lobbyists for every member of Congress,” she noted.
Voting: “Require early voting in all Federal elections. Register [student] voters in high school.”
Local offices: Allentown, Easton and Stroudsburg.