Surprise: PBS Town Hall Audience Hammers Obama on Regulations, Health Care, Veterans

Wednesday night’s PBS NewsHour town hall in Elkhart, Indiana had it all with host Gwen Ifill attacking residents for not supporting President Barack Obama and the President praising PBS’s “civility,” but it also featured audience members surprisingly being allowed to blast the President on issues ranging from the economy to ObamaCare to regulations to veterans. 

Fifth-generation farmer Bill Kercher was first up and he didn’t waste his chance to question the President as he observed that “over the past six years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of regulations that touch all aspects of our business from the Food Safety Modernization Act from ObamaCare and many others.”

Kercher properly noted that “large farms are able to comply with these regulations more easily” whereas “small family farms we've seen actually exiting the industry,” so he then arrived at his question: “At what point are we over-regulated, if not now? And how can we encourage younger growers to either stay or enter an industry where barriers to entry are higher than ever?”

Naturally, the President went on a meandering answer about how he “want[s] you to succeed” and his “administration's policy has been encourage family farming, rather than big agra business” since “as Michelle will tell you, it actually produces food that's better for you.”

The lovefest was nowhere to be seen as the next question featured a steel union representative pressing about the desolate manufacturing job scene:

I'm trying to find out what do we have left as far as all of our jobs are leaving in Indianapolis, right? And I see here you're doing a lot of things, but in Indianapolis there's nothing there for us. I mean, what's next? What can we look forward to in the future as far as jobs employment, whatever, because all of our jobs have left our are in the process of leaving, sir?

Later on, a gentleman stepped to the microphone to initially praise the President but also bringing up an intriguing point about how large the hysteria over transgender bathrooms have become (which, contrary what the President told him, was started by the left): “I'm a strong believer in equal rights for everyone, a very strong believer in that. I was wondering, though, with all the pressing issues that you have before you right now, why is the issue of which bathroom a person uses such an issue?”

Perhaps the one that actually befuddled the President concerned ObamaCare with Hoosier Dean Rink bringing up how his first year under the health care law brought him affordable pricing but not since then:

Mr. Obama, in regards to ObamaCare, I have been receiving my health insurance through the marketplace, and the first year, the subsidy was very high, and my premium was very low, and I was very happy. Now, beginning in January of '16, the subsidy was lower, and my premium went up dramatically and my income was nearly the same. In fact, for this year, I'm paying 22 percent of my income for health care.

Visibly stumped, the President ruled that “[y]our subsidy should not have gone down if your income is more or less the same, unless there was some significant difference in your tax status, so I —you know, I'll try to find out about that.”

The hour-long event ended on a softball about what he would go back and change over the course of his presidency, but not before a second union worker threw a hardball at Obama concerning Syrian refugees and homeless/suicidal veterans:

My name is Gerald Sparks. I'm a member of Local 1118 Painters and Allied Trade Union. I have a two-part question. First, with over 79,000 Syrian refugees already coming into the states and tens of thousands more coming in, how you can guarantee that there's none that have been radicalized? And, two, don’t feel that money would be better spent taking care of the tens of thousands of homeless veterans we have sleeping on the streets every night, some with children, and the ones committing suicide daily?

The relevant portions of the transcript from PBS’s Questions for President Obama — A PBS NewsHour Special on June 1 can be found below.

PBS’s Questions for President Obama — A PBS NewsHour Special
June 1, 2016
8:15 p.m. Eastern

BILL KERCHER: Mr. President, I am a fifth generation fruit and vegetable grower here in Elkhart County and over the past six years, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of regulations that touch all aspects of our business from the Food Safety Modernization Act from ObamaCare and many others. Now, large farms are able to comply with these regulations more easily, and small family farms we've seen actually exiting the industry. At what point are we over-regulated, if not now? And how can we encourage younger growers to either stay or enter an industry where barriers to entry are higher than ever? Thank you.

(....)

8:20 p.m. Eastern

ERIC COTTONHAM: My name is Eric Cottonham, and I'm representing the Steel Workers Union Local 1999, and I'm trying to find out what do we have left as far as all of our jobs are leaving in Indianapolis, right? And I see here you're doing a lot of things, but in Indianapolis there's nothing there for us. I mean, what's next? What can we look forward to in the future as far as jobs employment, whatever, because all of our jobs have left our are in the process of leaving, sir?

(....)

8:25 p.m. Eastern

VANESSA CORREDERA: You have addressed the crushing student debt, especially for higher education and you cited initiatives with community colleges, the STEM disciplines and technology as potential responses. Many of my friends and especially my students are still struggling with this issue. So my question for you is how do you continue to address this issue your final months in office? And how do you do see in a way that perhaps includes the humanities and liberal arts education as a whole when, frankly, those are in fact very much under attack?

(....)

8:30 p.m. Eastern

ARVIS DAWSON: First of all, I want to thank you, Mr. President, if the service to our country, and despite polls, there's a lot of love for you here in Elkhart. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I appreciate that. You knjow, I actually — one thing is after seven and a half years you don't worry about the polls no more. You really don't. 

DAWSON: My question to you, Mr. President, I'm a strong believer in equal rights for everyone, a very strong believer in that. I was wondering, though, with all the pressing issues that you have before you right now, why is the issue of which bathroom a person uses such an issue?

(....)

8:42 p.m. Eastern

DEAN RINK: Mr. Obama, in regards to ObamaCare, I have been receiving my health insurance through the marketplace, and the first year, the subsidy was very high, and my premium was very low, and I was very happy. Now, beginning in January of '16, the subsidy was lower, and my premium went up dramatically and my income was nearly the same. In fact, for this year, I'm paying 22 percent of my income for health care. So that's my concern and my complaint. The second part of my question is what's going to happen to ObamaCare in 2017 and beyond?

(....)

8:46 p.m. Eastern

GERALD SPARKS: My name is Gerald Sparks. I'm a member of Local 1118 Painters and Allied Trade Union. I have a two-part question. First, with over 79,000 Syrian refugees already coming into the states and tens of thousands more coming in, how you can guarantee that there's none that have been radicalized? And, two, don’t feel that money would be better spent taking care of the tens of thousands of homeless veterans we have sleeping on the streets every night, some with children, and the ones committing suicide daily? Thank you, Mr. President.

(....)

8:51 p.m. Eastern

MARY ANNE NEUFELDT: Mr. President, what is the one thing you would go back and change during your presidency, and how would you change it?

 


Please support NewsBusters today! [a 501(c)(3) non-profit production of the Media Research Center]

DONATE

Or, book travel through MRC’s Travel Discounts Program! MRC receives a rebate for each booking when you use our special codes.

BOOK NOW
Tell the Truth 2016 NBDaily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Economy Environment Health Care Medical Insurance Media Bias Debate Military War on Terrorism Political Groups Conservatives & Republicans Liberals & Democrats Transgender PBS News Hour Video Government & Press ObamaCare President Barack Obama President Obama Veterans Veterans Administration Veterans Affairs Gwen Ifill Barack Obama
Curtis Houck's picture