BERLIN — Presidential hopeful Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told a Berlin town hall meeting on Friday that it is time to end “government of, by and for the rich and powerful.”
The congresswoman said the country needs to stop spending lives and money on regime change wars and instead invest in health care, education, renewable energy and rebuilding the crumbling infrastructure at home.
Appearing before a small gathering at the Northland Restaurant and Dairy Bar, Gabbard spoke about the need to bring Americans together.
She said there is not much respectful dialogue in Washington these days and vowed, if elected, to work to heal the country.
A combat veteran with two tours in the Middle East and presently a major in the Army National, the 38-year-old Gabbard said that since 9/11 the United States has spent over $6 trillion on what she calls “regime change wars.” She reminded the crowd that our country has now spent 18 years in Afghanistan. The results, she said, are counterproductive.
“We, the people, get left behind,” she said.
The money we spend on wars could help with nation-building at home. Gabbard cited a need for investments in health care, education, reducing dependency on fossil fuels and addressing the opioid crisis.
After a brief opening statement, Gabbard took questions from those in attendance and the meeting turned emotional when the topic turned to Alzheimer’s disease, after two people talked about how it has affected their families.
Gabbard revealed her grandfather had Alzheimer’s and said the country must devote more resources to research and treatment of the memory-robbing disease. There also need to be resources dedicated to caregivers who help Alzheimer’s patients remain in their homes as long as possible.
“The needs of our people are not being met,” she said.
Gabbard said she would go after pharmaceutical companies she feels have lied and cheated as they have profited from the opioid addiction they helped create. She said she is a sponsor of the Opioid Accountability Act, which would allow criminal charges against top company executives.
The congresswoman also noted that the U.S. is the No. 1 purchaser of prescription drugs in the world but is prohibited from negotiating drug prices for Medicare. By buying access to Congress through lobbyists, she said the pharmaceutical industry is raking in profits at the expense of the American people. She supports legislation allowing direct negotiation to secure affordable prescription drugs under Medicare Part D.
As the child of teachers, Gabbard also believes in empowering teachers and providing resources to meet the needs of their communities. She would make community college tuition free for all students and four-year college free for working-class families.
Gabbard was critical of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from northern Syria, charging that in doing so, he gave Turkey a green light to launch an ethnic -leansing offensive against the Kurds.
She said the Kurds have been the United States’ most effective partner against ISIS, and Trump has left them for Turkey to slaughter.
On climate change, she said the U.S. is spending close to $30 billion a year in subsidies to fossil fuel and big agribusiness corporations. Gabbard said she would end those subsidies and invest in clean renewable energy sources and sustainable farming. Not only would that help to stop climate change but she pointed out it would create jobs. Gabbard said she supports the U.S. rejoining the Paris climate accord and would work with other counties to combat climate change.
Growing up in Hawaii, Gabbard said she was shy and introverted and had no plans to go into politics. She said, however, that she was happiest doing things for others.
“I knew in my heart I wanted to serve,” she said.
At age 21, she became the youngest legislator in her state’s history when she was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives.
Two years later, after 9/11, she volunteered for the Army National Guard and served two tours in the Middle East.
In 2009, she ran and was elected to the Honolulu City Council. In 2012, she was elected to her current position.
In Congress, she serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Financial Services.
For more on Gabbard, go to tulsi2020.com.