An interview with presidential candidate Barack Obama

Appeal: You favor giving undocumented workers a path to citizenship. Will this economically benefit Nevadans and at the same time keep the country secure?

Obama: You can't look at any of these issues in isolation. We have to have strong border enforcement, and that includes monitoring who's getting visas and who's getting into the country. All that is very important, and I'm devoted to that.

I think it's important for us to crack down on employers who hire undocumented workers. I do think that is contributing to depressing wages potentially in the United States and (employers) need to be sanctioned.

I also think that there will be undocumented workers who have put down roots in this country, and we are better off getting them registered.

I think it's important we get them registered, make them pay a significant fine, make them learn English, make sure they're at the back of the line - that they're not getting citizenship before people who have applied legally - but that we put them on a pathway to citizenship.

At that point, they are less likely to undercut U.S. workers because now they are subject to minimum-wage laws. They're subject to overtime. They are not are readily exploited by employers, and I think that puts U.S. workers in a stronger position.

The other option is to engage in the occasional raid, but the truth of the matter is, there are 12 million undocumented workers here. We can have these raids of 50 people at a time, but the fact of the matter is that they'll continue to live in the shadows. And that, I think, is worse for the U.S. economy and workers here in Nevada.

A: You've proposed a plan to cut billions in taxes for middle and low- income citizens while eliminating some tax cuts for the wealthy. Do you think this would hurt businesses trying to recover from the housing downturn?

O: No, it would help them, because what we're seeing is a potential downturn in consumer spending. With a downturn in consumer spending, we're going to end up really hurting businesses, especially small businesses, who rely on the consumer who's going to the diner or pumping gas and buying something at the 7-Eleven.

You want to get more money into the pockets of ordinary Americans who are more likely to spend it and spur economic growth, as opposed to these tax loopholes that are going to companies that are shipping jobs overseas or maintaining tax havens where they avoid paying taxes.

A; What is the most harmful aspect of the current administration's energy policy, and how can it be changed or corrected without economically hurting the average worker?

O: I think that we just have to cut down our consumption of fossil fuels. It's important for global warming. It's important for economy, because as long as we guzzle as much gas as we do gas prices are going to keep on going up. It's bad for our national security because we're funding countries like Iran who are hostile to us by keeping the price of oil high.

Changing that is going to require shifts in consumption patterns. We've got to have higher fuel economy standards on cars. We need to have our buildings more efficient. We need to use energy more wisely. We've got to develop alternative energy sources. And I think that although that may result at the front end in dealing with some electricity prices, for example ... it is really important to for us to understand that we can generate jobs things like solar, wind and biodiesel that are going to be good for the U.S. economy over the long term.

A: In talking with Nevada residents, what issue have you found they are most concerned about, and how will you address that issue?

O: People are obviously concerned about things like home foreclosure, but the thing I hear most often is health care. Now, people either don't have health care or they've got inadequate health care or they're just having a tough time keeping up with premiums. And so we've proposed a plan where we will have a government program people can buy into similar to the program I participate in as a member of Congress. People won't be excluded for pre-existing conditions. We'll subsidize people to make sure they can afford it, and if they're happy with their current health care, they can keep it, but we'll work with employers to try to lower premiums. ...

I think that has got to be a top priority; that will be my No. 1 domestic priority when I'm president.


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