SHELDON—Rich Haack had seen Tom Steyer’s TV ads and had an open schedule Friday morning, Jan. 3, so he decided to hear the Democratic U.S. presidential candidate speak at Cook’s Cafe/Langer’s Bar & Grill in Sheldon.
“We’ve got a huge political question on our plate right now,” the 75-year-old Sheldon resident said. “I’d like to hear what the alternatives are.”
Steyer, a 62-year-old billionaire activist who jumped into the presidential race in July, spoke to about 40 people in the restaurant. He frequently took aim at President Donald Trump while addressing topics ranging from climate change to the economy.
“We need someone who can beat Mr. Trump, we need someone who can do the job on the economy and we need someone who can pull this party together,” Steyer said.
“It’s obvious this is a party that has splits, and I believe I’m personally all three of those things: beat Mr. Trump, be a very responsible steward of the economy, deal with the climate crisis, get this government back to the people.”
Steyer decried the influence large corporations have in the workings of government and said he would take on corporate power by building a grass-roots campaign. Part of being a grass-roots candidate means Steyer would welcome Republican voters into his coalition.
He did, however, target longtime Republican Party leaders such as U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and advocated for Senate term limits to ensure new leadership.
On the issue of climate change, Steyer claimed he is the only candidate who has made it his No. 1 priority. He said he would declare a climate crisis in the United States on day one of being president and create millions of union-backed jobs to help clean pollution in the atmosphere and water supply. He also would partner with countries around the world to find climate solutions worldwide.
The topic of climate change is important to Sandy Kamphoff, a 60-year-old Sheldon resident who came to hear Steyer speak.
“I feel climate change is a huge issue,” Kamphoff said. “He’s one that’s putting it at the forefront.”
Steyer also addressed another issue Kamphoff said mattered to her: health care. Steyer explained he supports providing a public option for health-care insurance while still giving people choice to keep their private plans.
“I’m for a public option in health care, in large part because I don’t like people telling me what to do, who think they know my health and my family and my life better than I do,” he said.
“If they have such a great option, I’ll choose it. And that’s my deal is 160 million people get their health care through their work.”
Steyer also spoke of recent trade disputes involving the United States and criticized Trump for his handling of foreign trade.
“It has killed farmers, taking away really the biggest customer that American farmers have internationally,” he said. “I would get rid of the trade war on day one.”
Steyer also touched on Social Security, noting how the program is the primary source of income for 75 percent of its recipients.
“This cannot be cut,” he said. “It cannot be aggregated. The Social Security trust line has got to be inviolate, period. The end. It’s not that complicated.”
Steyer went after Trump’s record as a businessman, calling the president a “fake business person” and a poor steward of the country’s economy. He criticized Trump’s tax cut as giving extra income to people who already are wealthy while exacerbating the country’s deficit.
Haack asked Steyer how he would respond to Trump in a debate if the president resorted to name calling.
“My experience with bullies is you have to call them out, because if they get the upper hand, they never get stopped,” Steyer said.