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"Please, Mr. President": Advocates Call for Policy Priorities

November 10, 2008

As President-elect Barack Obama begins his transition to the Oval Office, having won a two-thirds majority of the Electoral College, political pundits say he is entering the White House with a mandate for change. However, with so many problems facing the nation, advocacy groups are scrambling for a place on the priority list.

Doug Martin is legislative director for AFSCME Council 79, Florida's second-largest union, which represents more than 100,000 public workers. He feels health care should be a top priority.

"We have to reform the health care system, which is far too expensive, yet does not treat all Americans and provide the coverage that they need. So, when we have the mandate let's take on some of the big issues."

He says 46 million people are uninsured, and another 25 million are under-insured, leaving many people just one illness away from financial disaster.

Martin says he's hopeful for the Obama presidency, and he considers the election a victory for working people.

"He is someone who knows the struggles of working people in his heart, and the American people responded to that and are looking to him to solve some of the many, many problems that beset working America."

Union leadership is also asking the president-elect to reform Wall Street to protect Main Street, to increase financial aid to state and local governments, and to bolster the economy.

Wilma McKay, executive director of Florida Association for Community Action agrees, saying improving the economy will help the nearly five million Florida families living in poverty. Additionally, she feels it is critical to develop a national plan to end poverty in the next decade.

"We would pass all kind of laws to protect the animals here, whereas, when it comes to people, it seems like those programs for the less-fortunate are the last ones that people care about. I think we need to put people as a priority."

She says in one of the wealthiest nations in the world there is no excuse for routine poverty.

Gina Presson/Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL