Democratic senatorial candidate Jim Neal spoke to Watauga County voters at Espresso News Saturday afternoon.
Neal is one of five candidates vying in the May 6 primary for the privilege to face Republican incumbent Senator Liddy Dole this November.
Responding to a wide range of questions, Neal spoke at length about "the perfect storm" now arising in our economy. He mentioned that in 2001, gasoline was $1.46 a gallon and is now $3.18, and everyone expects it to top $4.00 by the end of this year. Over 37,000 North Carolinians lost their homes in 2007 due to foreclosure. The median family income in North Carolina actually declined almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2006.
Neal said that his work in private sector investment banking has given him a much clearer understanding of the massive debt that the Bush administration has saddled us with and of their mismanagement of the economy generally.
While the Republicans raise the specter of "socialism" at any talk of university health care for American citizens, they are not at all concerned about the economic socialism of bailing out Bear Stearns from its own mismanagement.
With the value of the dollar tanking and with the crisis deepening in the home mortgage industry, Neal said every American had every right to be very worried about the future.
Senator Dole represents business as usual, according to Neal, and she has lacked the understanding and/or the courage to challenge the Bush administration on any of its policies.
"Our national independence is threatened as the U.S. government borrows money from China to finance record budget deficits. We are mortgaging America's crown jewels -- our productive assets -- to finance massive trade deficits."
Other questions directed at candidate Neal centered on the high cost of health care and on federal education policy represented by "No Child Left Behind."
He drew distinctions between himself and his leading opponent for the Democratic nomination, state Senator Kay Hagan. She represents the establishment, he said, and she's prepared to continue doing business as usual. "I'm the outsider."
He pointed out that while Hagan has been a chief budget-writer in the NC Senate, she voted to lower taxes on the wealthiest citizens. She has said that she agreed with George Bush about telecom immunity from criminal prosecution for domestic spying. She has also said she would have voted to uphold the Bush veto of the S-CHIP expansion.
"It seems that Senator Hagan thinks this campaign is about calling in favors from high-dollar Capitol insiders to pay for carpet bombing the state with poll-tested political ads, but the people of North Carolina deserve better."
"How is she different from Elizabeth Dole?" Neal asked.
Other Democrats running in the May 6th primary are listed here.