Kerry decries outsourcing, speaks of health care, tech

The U.S. should close tax loopholes that provide incentives to companies that want to ship jobs to other countries and provide its military with the most advanced technology, while also focusing on security and improving the health-care system, U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry said Thursday night in a wide-ranging speech accepting his party’s nomination.

Kerry opened his speech at the Democratic National Convention in Boston with an appeal to “family values,” a theme that Republicans trumpet and are sure to make a big part of their national convention next month. The Massachusetts senator, whose daughters spoke before he did, talked about his family, his upbringing and invoked the name of John F. Kennedy, the former Democratic president whose initials are the same as Kerry’s.

The Nov. 2 U.S. presidential election, which pits Kerry against President Bush, is the first since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. that killed nearly 3,000 people, leading to the military campaign in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq and changes in U.S. public policy and law, as well as reshaping the tenor of relations with other nations. Many Democrats and civil liberties groups have argued that U.S. rights have been severely eroded under the Bush administration, which contends that it is doing what it must to keep terrorists at bay and protect the nation. “My fellow Americans, this is the most important election of our lifetime,” Kerry said. “The stakes are high. We are a nation at war — a global war on terror against an enemy unlike any we have ever known before. And here at home, wages are falling, health care costs are rising, and our great middle class is shrinking. People are working weekends, two jobs, three jobs, and they’re still not getting ahead.”

As U.S. workers toil ever more, they also increasingly face the prospect of losing their jobs as companies move to other countries, Kerry said, addressing outsourcing as one of the first issues in his speech.

“We’re told outsourcing jobs is good for America. We’re told that new jobs that pay US$9,000 less than the jobs that have been lost is the best we can do,” Kerry said. “They say this is the best economy we’ve ever had. And they say anyone who thinks otherwise is a pessimist. Well, here is our answer: There is nothing more pessimistic than saying America can’t do better.”

As part of his economic plan, Kerry called for closing tax loopholes “that reward companies for shipping our jobs overseas. Instead, we will reward companies that create and keep good-paying jobs right where they belong — in the good old U.S.A. We value an America that exports products, not jobs — and we believe American workers should never have to subsidize the loss of their own job.”

If he is elected, Kerry pledged that he will not raise taxes on the middle class, but will instead cut taxes for that large group, and will also decrease the tax burden on small businesses. Tax breaks given to the rich by the Bush administration will be rolled back under Kerry’s plan, with that money invested in job creation, health care and education.

Kerry spent a fair bit of his speech on health care, saying that his plan “cracks down on the waste, greed and abuse in our health care system and will save families US$1,000 a year on their premiums. You’ll get to pick your own doctor — and patients and doctors, not insurance company bureaucrats, will make medical decisions. Under our health care plan, Medicare will negotiate lower drug prices for seniors. And all Americans will be able to buy less expensive drugs from countries like Canada.”

Health care will no longer be “a privilege for the wealthy, and the connected, and the elected — it is a right for all Americans,” he said.

Recalling the Wright brothers and their airplane experiment at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and the space travel that flight led to, Kerry also remembered those entrepreneurs who asked “what if we could take all the information in a library and put it on a chip the size of a fingernail? We did and that too changed the world. And now it’s our time to ask: What if?”

That question was followed with Kerry wondering aloud about the possibility that a scientific breakthrough could lead to cures for Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and AIDS. “What if we have a president who believes in science, so we can unleash the wonders of discovery like stem cell research and treat illness and save millions of lives?”

That comment was an obvious jab at George W. Bush, who in August 2001 imposed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and who has been widely accused by scientists of being more concerned with party politics than advancing U.S. scientific research and prowess.

Based on comments from delegates before Kerry’s speech, they expected he would talk about technology, outsourcing jobs and how education under his administration would focus on better worker training. Various issues touched on in his speech are included in the platform of the Democratic party.

“We need to invest in education to provide workers in the private sector with the skills they need,” said Philip Angelides, a delegate from California and the state treasurer. While China produced 220,000 engineers this year and South Korea 50,000, the U.S. managed to train only 60,000, he said, adding that Kerry will invest in education at all levels and in renewable energy technology.

Bush’s partisanship has hampered the U.S., Angelides said.

“There’s a litany of things where Bush has chosen ideology over investment, from stem cell research to tax policy,” he said.

If Kerry is elected “technology will be front and centre,” said Philip Johnston, chairman of the Massachusetts delegation. “Government needs to make some pretty big investments in technological innovation.”

– With files from Paul Roberts, IDG News Service

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