Naked City

Kerry visits purple Austin

Naked City
Photo By John Anderson

As a capacity crowd filed into UT's Recreational Sports Center last Saturday morning, it was briefly to the strains of Lyle Lovett's "That's Right – You're Not From Texas." Now to whom could that refer? About an hour later, a fit, trim, and confident John Kerry emerged, saying 2004 was behind him.

Although in town to promote his "Kids First" health insurance legislative program, Kerry and others covered a wide range during the 90-minute town hall meeting. Several legislators were on hand, including Austin's Elliott Naishtat and Waco's Jim Dunnam, and Kerry's congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, introduced the guest of honor. Wistfully recalling that he had expected to be in the White House, and his opponent to be back in Texas – and not the other way around – Kerry touched on several topics before delving into his health care agenda. "A whole lot of people have been tricked" into voting against their own interests, with hot-button topics smoke-screening real issues, Kerry said. "They're tired of a bunch of politicians in Washington telling us what God really wants us to do." As a segue into his program, he referred to the hypocrisy of the so-called Christian right: "You never turn your backs on the most vulnerable in society."

To that end, the senator explained his proposed Kids First program. Citing Texas' troubled Children's Health Insurance Program, which will this year see some basic services reinstated as well as further paperwork hurdles, Kerry said his program calls for automatic enrollment. The feds would cover those children up to 100% of the poverty level, while the state would cover up to 300%, resulting in a net savings to all states of some $6 billion, he said. Someone asked how to keep the program from becoming a subsidy for corporations paying poverty wages, such as Wal-Mart, the No. 1 employer of those with children on CHIP. Kerry said we could use a clearer tax code and incentives for higher pay, and noted that the president could utilize his bully pulpit to get the job done.

On healing the divisions of the election, Kerry said, "I never believed in this red state, blue state hokey," finding the nation to be shades of purple. "What I'm working for now is 2006," he said. "Things didn't stop on November 2 just because of a close election."

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