With the primary election next Tuesday, both Democratic presidential hopefuls continue their efforts to reach as many voters in Indiana as possible. Sen. Barack Obama took time out from his campaign schedule Monday night to call the NUVO offices while traveling the back roads of North Carolina by bus in between public appearances. The connection was a little rough, and we lost the call a few times (Can you hear me now?), but he kept calling back, and we kept the questions coming. To read more about Sen. Barack Obama’s policy positions and plans for his presidential administration, visit www.barackobama.com/issues
NUVO: Coal is abundant in our state, and it is also very dirty. Currently, Indiana ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for CO2 emissions from coal-burning power plants. In the past few years, we’ve seen the federal government and our governor give huge tax credits to coal companies for “Clean Coal Technology.” What will be your policy towards tax credits for coal companies and what is your position on “clean coal” as a viable solution for our energy and environmental crises?
Sen. Obama: Like Indiana, Illinois is a coal state as well and we also have problems with the emissions from our coal. I think it is very important for us to work clean-coal technology — if for no other reason than the fact that coal is going to continue to supply a huge portion of our energy for some time to come — even with the aggressive cap and trade plan that I’ve called for to reduce carbon emissions. We’re not going to be able to replace coal overnight, so it is critical for us to invest what’s needed for us to develop coal-sequestration technology. I was a big supporter of the Future-Gen project, a billion-dollar project that provided coal companies with the incentive and technology to reduce carbon emissions.
NUVO: Given that costs for automobile and airline travel continue to increase, as well as the environmental problems that continue to plague our most popular modes of transportation, do you have a vision for a national transportation system that provides real energy and cost saving alternatives as well as a lower environmental impact? Could Amtrak, for example, have a bigger role?
Sen. Obama: I do support more funding for Amtrak, but what I would really like to see is a national high-speed rail system. Particularly in the Midwest. We should have a high-speed rail system between Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Detroit and other cities. Particularly with gas prices being what they are and the increased expense in air travel, I think people would be very happy to see some type of high-speed rail system. And it is something I am interested in pursuing as president.
NUVO: Though same-sex marriage is illegal in Indiana, for the past four years our Indiana Legislature has attempted (and failed) to pass an amendment to the state Constitution that would a) define marriage as between one man and one woman only and b) prohibit the rights of marriage from being conferred upon unmarried couples. Would you support such an amendment in your home state and would you support a federal amendment banning same-sex marriage or civil unions if you were to become president?
Sen. Obama: I don’t support a ban on civil unions. I don’t support gay marriage, but I do not think that a constitutional amendment banning it is appropriate. I do support civil unions. I think it is important for us to make sure that same-sex couples have property, hospital and a host of other rights that I want to see secured at the federal level. And I will work to see that happen when I’m president of the United States.
NUVO: Women in America still earn approximately 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same job a male worker does; in Indiana the rate is closer to 72 cents, and for African-American women, the rate of pay is even lower. What concrete steps could you take at the federal level to close the wage gap between men and women?
Sen. Obama: I’m a supporter of equal pay. We just recently had a Supreme Court decision that we sought to have overturned. The Justices ruled that a woman did not have the right to sue despite being discriminated against. They said she should have filed suit before she even knew that she was being paid differently.
I think it’s a failure of our legal system not to take this issue seriously. So I will be looking for ways to make changes at the legislative level, as well as appointing judges who are sympathetic to the notion that women should get paid the same as men for doing the same job.
Now, there is one other component to it that I think needs to be factored in. And that is that a lot of women are still carrying the burdens and responsibilities of child-rearing more than men; and that’s why we need to make sure they have adequate and affordable child care.
NUVO: How has your experience as an Illinois senator helped you to understand what it is Indiana voters need from their president?
Sen. Obama: The nice thing about being from Illinois is that we have a lot in common with Indiana. We share a border. We share a Midwestern culture. The economy of downstate Illinois is very similar to Indiana’s.
As president, not only will I be promoting the common sense and pragmatic values of the Midwest, but I will also be very sensitive to the needs of job creation, family farms and the rural economy, and all the issues that I’ve worked on as a state senator and a United States senator.