3rd District candidate brings message to area retirees

Published 5:00 am Friday, July 11, 2008

A 3rd Congressional District contender seeking to make his nameknown to voters in November visited Brookhaven Thursday as part ofa summer-long tour of the district.

Democratic nominee Joel Gill, D-Pickens, spoke before a meetingof the National Active and Retired Federal Employees AssociationThursday at Western Sizzlin’, promising to keep an eye out forSouthwest Mississippi’s senior citizens if elected to Congress.

“I deliver the same message I always wish to deliver – I want tomake sure our retirees are taken care of,” Gill said.

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The cattleman from Pickens outlined his plan for vigilance to arearetirees, which included a revamp of some local and federalissues.

Gill said he wanted to make Social Security “solvent” byeliminating the stipulation that payments to the program are madebased only on the first $102,000 of income.

“It’s an exemption for the wealthy,” Gill complained. “A big-timeball player who earns more than $20 million a year only has to paySocial Security on his first $102,000. Imagine how much sounder oursystem would be if he paid on the same level as everyone else?”

Gill said leveling the amount of money paid into Social Securityamong all citizens would then allow the contemplation of the “verygood” idea to let younger workers keep a portion of their SocialSecurity funds under personal control.

Another of Gill’s missions is to overturn a mid-1990s Pentagondecision that stopped providing lifetime, free healthcare for WorldWar II and Korea veterans, who were promised such when signing a20-year service agreement between 1941 and 1956.

Gill joined scores of veterans who have criticized the Bushadministration for refusing to overturn the decision made more than10 years ago under the Clinton administration.

“The Bush administration has said, ‘No, we can’t afford that,’ andtold our veterans they must go through the VA or get on Medicare,”Gill said. “But that’s wrong – we can’t break that promise. It’s aninsult to those who gave 20 years of their life to service to havethat deal welshed on.”

Gill’s third main point while speaking before the retirees fromLincoln, Lawrence and Franklin counties was to address free tradeagreements on the national level. He said the agreements distortthe workplace and take jobs away from Mississippians and citizensof foreign countries, adding to the nation’s illegal immigrationwoes.

An offshoot of universal health care was also among the issues Gillproposed Thursday. He stressed that his idea for the system was not”Hillary-care,” but something similar to the old county-ownedhospital system.

In order for the system to work, Gill said, a law requiring freshlygraduated students of medical and nursing schools to serve amandatory two years at the public hospitals would have to bepassed.

“This would provide training for new medical personnel whileallowing insurance companies to develop a baseline coverage,” hesaid. “This would cause insurance companies to only fundemergencies, while your basic checkups and tests could be done atthe public hospitals. Only then will insurance costs go down – whenthe companies realize they won’t have to pay for tests that may notbe necessary.”

Gill continued to explain his views on national issues such as theIraq War. He is not in favor of staying in Iraq “for 100 years,”but neither does he wish to cut and run.

“To me, the old saying applies, ‘You break it, you bought it,'”Gill said. “I am against an immediate pull-out and against atimetable for withdrawal.”

Gill said an exit strategy for the war should be left up to thegenerals – not politicians – and favored shifting more of thefinancial burden for the war to Iraq.

In order to further expound on his political views and compare themto his opponent, Republican contender Gregg Harper of Pearl, Gillis in the process of trying to set up a series of debates acrossthe district. He said Brookhaven would be one of his desiredlocations for such a debate.