Five of the Democrats running for President gathered at a Saturday forum in Newton, Iowa — home of appliance industry giant Maytag — to charge President Bush’s trade and economic policies are jeopardizing jobs at Maytag and throughout the country. Maytag is the town’s largest employer, with about 3500 Newton-area workers on its payroll. In March, about 150 office and production line workers in Newton were laid off. “The Maytag jobs in Galesburg, Illinois, are on their way to Mexico,” said Missouri Rep. Richard Gephardt, referring to the company’s decision to close one of its aging plants rather than retool it. “And I know there’s worry in this room today that the Maytag jobs here could go to Mexico as well.” Gephardt opposed the North American Free Trade Agreeement (NAFTA) when it passed Congress, and several union members in Saturday’s audience wore t-shirts to protest the policy which they charge has led U.S-based companies to choose cheaper labor in Mexico. “I know that all over this country there are workers who are really concerned that the next shoe that’s going to drop is that their own company is going to pull out because of NAFTA,” said Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who promised to repeal NAFTA if he’s elected President. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said the present Bush Administration was advancing — through tax cuts for wealthy Americans — a “trickle down” economic forumla that Bush’s father had once criticized. “Everywhere I go in this country I’m meeting a whole bunch of Americans who are tired of being trickled on by this Administration,” Kerry said. North Carolina Sen. John Edwards said President Bush governs for a “handful of insiders” allied with corporate America. “This is his family. It’s where he comes from. It’s how he’s been able to accomplish every single thing he’s ever done in his life,” Edwards said. Reverend Al Sharpton went one step farther, accusing Bush of advancing policies that help “big fat Republican billionaires.” “The President is not elected to be the business agent in Washington for billionaires,” said Reverend Al Sharpton, who arrived at the forum in a white, stretch limo. “…This President talks of leaving no child behind, but he really wants to leave no billionaire behind.” During the forum, which lasted over 90 minutes, the candidates each repeated their ideas for ensuring all Americans have health care coverage. Near the end of the forum, Kucinich began singing “This Land Is Your Land” as many in the crowd clapped and sang along. “If I had time, I’d do a little dance for you folks,” said Kerry, who had the next turn at the microphone. “But I know you didn’t come here for that.” About 400 people attended the forum held in the Newton High School gymnasium. Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean cancelled his scheduled appearance to go home to Vermont for the weekend after his 17-year-old son was arrested for stealing beer from a country club. The teen Dean was allegedly driving the get-away car.
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