Slate is running several series of short features explaining who the 2004 presidential candidates are, what they’re saying, and where they propose to take the country. The first series summarized their personal and professional backgrounds. The second series analyzed their buzzwords. This series outlines what each candidate would do as president. Candidates take positions on many issues, but once in the White House, a president tends to focus on the few issues he or she really cares about. The purpose of this series is to identify those issues and clarify how the candidate, as president, would address them. Today’s subject is Dennis Kucinich.
1. Replace private health insurance with a universal public system. Over a 10-year period, Kucinich would phase in a single-payer national health insurance program called Medicare for All. Private HMOs and insurance companies would no longer exist. Kucinich would use bulk purchasing to buy pharmaceuticals at a lower cost. He estimates the plan’s cost (once fully phased in) at $2.2 trillion per year. He would pay for it through current federal health-care funding and a new 7.7 percent payroll tax on all employers.
2. Create a Department of Peace. Kucinich says this Cabinet-level agency would “establish non-violence as an organizing principle for both domestic and international affairs.” Domestically, it would address spousal abuse, gang wars, and police-community tension. Internationally, it would strive to “make war archaic” by promoting diplomacy, disarmament, human rights, and equitable resource distribution. Kucinich is the only candidate who promises to slash the Pentagon budget. He says he would use the resulting “peace dividend” to fund social services.
3. Withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization. Kucinich says these free-trade agreements undermine the U.S. economy and human rights. By withdrawing from them, he thinks he can create jobs, boost the economy, tighten environmental standards, and protect people from multinational corporations. Instead of free trade, he advocates what he calls “fair trade” agreements, which would respect national sovereignty but would include stricter environmental and labor protections.