Having failed to qualify for the first Democratic presidential debate, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock held a town hall on WHO-TV, addressing questions on topics from student loan debt to climate change from several Iowans in the network’s studio in Des Moines.
On college debt, Faith Bourgeacq, a sophomore at Drake, brought up presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders’, I-Vt., plan to write off all student loan debt.
“This action he asserts will stimulate the economy by increasing consumer spending over many years,” Bourgeacq said.
“At least from my perspective as governor, I can’t say anything unless I can keep that promise," Bullock said. “I don’t know if the right answer is to just forgive everyone’s student loans.”
The governor added he believes college needs to be more affordable “going in.”
Rahul Parsa, senior lecturer in supply chains & information systems at Iowa State, asked Bullock about Social Security.
“What are you going to do shore up Social Security to meet obligations,” Parsa asked.
“The Social Security trust fund is underfunded,” Bullock said. “Just like with any retirement account, if you’re putting out more money than you’re putting in, you’ve got a problem.”
Bullock said many Americans have spent years paying into the program with the expectation of getting it back, and the government has to "honor that.”
Bullock was asked two questions on immigration and the United States border with Mexico.
“This is a humanitarian crisis,” Bullock said. “Sure we all believe in border security and keeping people safe, but we don’t believe in ripping families apart.”
The moderator, Dave Price, put an image on the screen from the U.S.-Mexico border of the bodies of Oscar Albert Martínez Ramírez and his not-yet 2-year-old daughter Valeria who had drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande.
“It’s sickening,” Bullock said.
While in Mexico attending the current president’s inauguration on behalf of the National Governor’s Association, Bullock said he met with women who were fleeing “horrible” situations and said this needs to be treated as a “humanitarian crisis.”
Bullock said that President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is an 18th century solution to a 21st century problem, adding he believes Trump is trying to “divide” Americans based on their background.
“If someone violates the law, they can be and ought to be deported,” Bullock said.
Jim Adams from Waukee welcomed the governor to the “land between two rivers” and asked him about the state of health in the country, saying nearly 70% of the U.S. population is overweight or obese.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates roughly 75% of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020.
The governor responded children need to be able to have healthy diets.
"If you don't have access to a doctor for preventative care, you're not going to address any of the challenges,” Bullock
A question from Facebook was read to Bullock: “How do you fight climate change without hindering family farmers?”
Bullock reiterated his support for the United States rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, before pivoting to focus his answer on farmers.
“[Agriculture] has to be a partner in reducing emissions ... also in carbon capture. Making sure you’re not always planting in every field,” Bullock said.
Bullock will hold another town hall in New Hampshire tomorrow before the second night of the first Democratic presidential debates.