Larry Eichel reports...
The final question comes from a newly-minted college graduate who says she's looking for a job and just realized that she doesn't have any health insurance. She wonders what would happen if she gets hit by a car. Obama says one element of his healthcare proposal would allow families to keep children on their plans until age 25. He also suggests that she be careful when she wanders the streets.
And he's outta here.
He also contrasts his tax proposals to those of McCain, saying that the Obama plan would be better for the bottom 95 percent of Americans on the income scale. And he's getting pretty animated after a slow start.
Obama salutes Congressman Joe Sestak, in whose district this event is taking place and who initially was unnoticed on his arrival. Sestak, a retired admiral, was a very enthusiastic and outspoken supporter of Clinton during the primaries. This was no surprise; Sestak served in Bill Clinton's White House.
Asked about the role of the Supreme Court in this election, Obama talks approvingly about the court's Guantanamo decision, which was handed down on Thursday. "John McCain thinks the court was wrong. I think the court was right." On the subject of abortion, Obama says the court is "just one justice away" from overturning Roe v. Wade. He says that Justice John Paul Stevens, a judge who favors abortion rights, probably wants to retire sometime soon. A woman in the audience pipes up, in keeping with the theme of this session, and says: "He can't afford to."
Says Obama: "This is going to be a major issue."
Now it's Q & A time. First question is about retirement security, and Obama goes after McCain, saying he wants to "privatize Social Security" by allowing people to have private accounts. McCain says he favors voluntary private accounts for younger workers, which he says does not amount to "privatizing" the system. Obama wants to impose the payroll tax, which now applies to wages up to $102,000, to earned income over $250,000 as well.
Obama blasts the proposal of Republican John McCain for a federal gas tax holiday for the summer as a gimmick and a stunt. He also blasted the idea during the primaries when Hillary Rodham Clinton supported a similar idea. The mood here is very quiet, almost somber. Obama's presentation so far is a low-key, Saturday morning kind of thing. He talks about his proposal for a middle-class tax cut and finally gets his first round of applause. He pledges to invest heavily in green energy. One reason this town hall was held here, at the new Radnor Middle School, is that this building was constructed with clean energy and energy conservation in mind.
In his opening remarks, Obama talks about the middle-class squeeze and the rising cost of groceries, medicine and energy and how hard it is to save for the future. "It isn't an accident that gas prices are this high," he says, blaming the Bush administration's energy policy for the nation's failure to move more aggressively toward alternative energy. But the problem has been decades in the making, he says, due to the influence of special interests in Washington.
The presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, is at the Radnor Middle School in Wayne for a small (150 or so), invitation-only town-hall meeting. The focus is expected to be on the price of gasoline.