Interested in getting the college voting block involved in the political process, Democratic presidential contender Sen. John Kerry organized a series of visits to universities across the Northeast of the United States this week.
Kerry addressed the apathy affecting the young voters across the United States on a telephone conference call with editors from various college newspapers Tuesday. The Massachusetts senator compared the involvement of his generation in political issues to the indifference of today’s college students.
“That’s why I’m doing a campus tour now and starting to talk to people in other campuses. Young people have this enormous power and they really have to understand it and embrace it and go out and use it,” Kerry said. “During the 1960s and ’70s, it was mostly young people who drove the Civil Rights Movement, who drove the environment movement, the peace movement, the women’s movement. And what we need to do is make some of the issues that matter to people voting issues again.
“If everybody just walks away and says it doesn’t make a difference, then you empower people who have money (to) spend (it) in the political system without opposition. Young people need to reemerge as a political force in America.”
On Monday, Kerry kicked off his campaign among young voters titled “Change Starts with U: Kerry Campus Tour 2004,” at the University of New Hampshire.
Kerry said the main issues he wanted to discuss with students centered on college affordability.
“Over the last three years, college tuition has increased about 28 percent,” Kerry said. “And that’s even after you take inflation into account. That has meant that, remarkably, 220,000 young people have been placed out of college this year. That means 220,000 people that would’ve gone to a four-year public university didn’t because of the rise in tuition.”
Kerry blamed President George W. Bush’s “tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans” as a catalyst that reduced the assistance that goes to states.
“(These tax cuts) cut the student loans, Pell grants, the Perkins loans and so forth,” Kerry said. “States are getting less money from the federal government or the states are cut so the tuition made up the difference. So in effect, George Bush’s tax cut for the wealthiest is a tuition tax increase for students.”
Kerry talked about his plan, called the state tax relief and education fund, a program that would use $25 billion per year in order to make up the difference, he said.
“I have $50 billion in tax credit to help pay for college, $4,000 per student tuition tax credit in order to try to reduce the impact of the last few years,” Kerry said.
Sen. Kerry was questioned on his plans to expand the military divisions and his intentions on how to fill them. He insists that military services will remain voluntary.
“No, no draft,” Kerry emphasized. “It will be done by having a more sensible foreign policy where young people don’t feel as if their leadership is making irresponsible decisions based on their presence in the military.
“If we have a more reasonable approach to our relationship with the rest of the world, I don’t think we would have any problems at all filling those divisions.”
Kerry said that one of the divisions would be a support division and the other would be a combat division. He said they would be paid for from the existing Pentagon budget by shifting funds from other areas.