Democratic candidate Michael Bennet visits Knoxville

Photo by Emily Hawk/Pella ChronicleDemocratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet interacts with constituents during a meet and greet at Peace Tree Brewing.

Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bennet says he is ready to restore decency in the White House, unify the country and “get things done.”

The senior Senator of Colorado discussed economic mobility, national debt, healthcare, gun violence and climate change during a meet and greet at Peace Tree Brewing on Aug. 10. About 15 constituents attended the event and came prepared with questions, observations and criticisms.

As a former superintendent of Denver Public Schools, Bennet has seen the effects of poverty firsthand. Although Colorado has one of the best economies in the nation, Bennet says he still encountered families that can’t afford a varied combination of housing, healthcare, higher education and early childhood education.

“There isn’t the kind of mobility that there used to be,” said Bennet. “We need to change that. We need an economy that will actually work for everybody, not just the people at the very top.”

One constituent was concerned that no democratic presidential candidate has addressed the national debt, emphasizing its negative impact on the country’s youth. Bennet mentioned the country’s unemployment rate and deficit go hand-in-hand with one another, stating that healthcare costs need to go down in order to keep the country from sinking further into debt.

“A huge amount of our deficit is the consequence of having an out-of-control healthcare spend. We’re spending almost twice as much as any industrialized country in the world. If we can keep people healthier, we can drive down costs by allowing people to have access to primary care.”

Since the Obama administration passed the Affordable Care Act almost ten years ago, Bennet says he’s been fighting for a public healthcare option. Bennet’s Medicare X plan would establish a government-run public option that aims to expand healthcare availability without eliminating private insurance. Bennet compared his healthcare plan with Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All, which would cost $33 trillion in taxes.

“I think a public option is better policy to begin with, because it creates competition that would drive down prices,” said Bennet. “It also means that the American people get to make the choice for themselves, and it means that we don’t have to raise taxes. Those choices matter.”

When asked about the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, Bennet says he hopes to continue to put pressure on the issue of gun violence in the Senate. Bennet would enforce universal background checks on a national level, which he says the state of Colorado has been implementing since Columbine 20 years ago.

Constituents were also concerned about climate change. Bennet responded that climate, economic opportunity, healthcare and education are all current issues that relate to one another. Bennet stated the heart of his climate plan is to provide subsidies for farmers that practice environmental and sustainable agriculture.

“You can’t address climate change two years at a time. It takes a commitment of a generation, which means we have to build a coalition to do it,” said Bennet. “We have to build a coalition for change.”