With one day before the elections, both Presidential candidates have been working hard on the campaign trails. Senator Barack Obama has spoken about many of the issues facing the country, but when young voters and MTV asked him a few questions, albeit some silly, he also answered them. Here's some of what Senator Obama recently said about college tuition, "spreading the wealth," sagging pants, dreadlocks and more.
On college tuition:
"Look, this I can relate to. I went to college having to take out student loans, went to law school having to take out student loans. Michelle took out student loans. When we got married, I think together our total loan payments every month was more than our mortgage when we bought a house, and that lasted for about 10 years. And I meet students — I think the average student is taking out $25,000 to $30,000. That's a huge burden, especially in a time when wages and income are not going up. So here is what we want to do: increase the Pell Grant program, eliminate banks as middlemen from the direct loan program — they're taking out billions of dollars in profits — take that money, apply that to increasing the number of loans that are out there and reducing the rates, and then what I want to do is provide a $4,000 tuition credit for every student, every year, in exchange for national service. If they participate in Peace Corps, working in their community in some fashion, obviously joining the military. We are going to make sure that they can afford their college tuition. And in certain areas, like teaching, where we really need teachers, especially in math and science, and nursing, where we really need nurses, we will potentially provide them with even more than that in order to get the high-quality teachers and nurses that we really need."
On the notion of "spreading the wealth."
"What is amazing to me is this whole notion that somehow everybody is just looking out for themselves. I mean, the fact is, we just talked about student loans. When young people who have the drive and the skill to go to college can't afford to go to college, how do you think we pay for scholarships or loan programs? That money doesn't grow on trees. It's got to come from somewhere, and the attitude that I have is that, if we want to grow our economy, the way it grows is from the bottom up. You don't just give tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. What you do is make sure the tax code is fair. I want to give a tax cut to 95% of working Americans, but in order to pay for that, I'm going to take the tax rates back to what they were in the 1990s for people who are making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year. Now for people who are making more than a quarter of a million dollars a year, if they are paying 2 or 3% higher in taxes, the notion that they're somehow going to stop working, or that this young man is going to not want to be successful, that just doesn't make any sense. Back in the 1990s, we created more millionaires, more billionaires, because the economy was growing, everything was strong, at every income bracket, people were doing well. So this idea, that somehow everybody is just on their own and shouldn't be concerned about other people who are coming up behind them, that's the kind of attitude that I want to end when I am president."
On Sagging Pants:
"Here's my attitude: I think passing a law about people wearing sagging pants is a waste of time," Obama told MTV. "We should be focused on creating jobs, improving our schools, getting health care, dealing with the war in Iraq. Any public official who is worrying about sagging pants probably needs to spend some time focusing on real problems out there."
"Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You're walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing. ... What's wrong with that? Come on. There are some issues that we face that you don't have to pass a law [against], but that doesn't mean folks can't have some sense and some respect for other people. And, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I'm one of them."
On a workplace banning certain fashion choices:
"I think that it's one thing if an employer discriminates on the basis of gender or sexual orientation or, obviously, race. ... I think employers can set standards. You have [dread] 'locks," he said, pointing out veejay Sway's hair, "but you look clean, man. It's tight. My little girl has twists, Malia. I think, to me, it looks great. Obviously, I'd be upset if she were discriminated against on that basis. On the other hand, if you're working at a fancy store, and you show up to work in jeans and a shirt and you have a tattoo across your neck like Mike Tyson, for them to say, 'You know what, that's sort of not the image we're trying to project,' obviously that's within their rights as well. Any business has a right to say, 'This is the tone we want to set,' as long as they aren't discriminating on the basis of things people can't control."
On "hope in the inner cities" that "society has deemed unreachable":
"It's a big problem and we are not going to be able to turn it around overnight. I don't want people thinking, 'I'm President, and suddenly you don't have any gangs on the streets, and you don't have any drugs being peddled on the corners.' But I think that over the course of eight, 10 years, we can start moving in another direction, and it involves starting when they are young, investing in early childhood education, making sure that our kids are getting a healthy start, having a comprehensive health care program, so that every young person is getting the checkups they need, if they need eyeglasses, if they have a hearing impairment, if they're getting their vaccinations, whatever it is, making sure they are healthy and happy when they start school. That is point number one. Point number two is improving K-12 education, improving our teachers, giving them higher salaries. Also giving them more support, having after-school programs and summer-school programs so that the kids have some place to go and having a criminal-justice system that is focused more on prevention and not just apprehending criminals. You look at, for example, the way we deal with nonviolent, low-level drug offenders, first-time drug offenders, it turns out drug courts that force them to go to rehabilitation, where they are carefully monitored, is actually much more successful in preventing them in going back into a life of crime than just throwing them in a jail somewhere, and if we have a smart approach and not just a tough approach, but also a smart and tough approach to how we deal with the criminal-justice program, that can have an impact as well. There is a great example, the Harlem Children's Zone, a guy name Geoffrey Canada started this. It has a comprehensive approach to young people in that area, and you are starting to see graduation rates go up, college-attendance rates go up, reductions in terms of delinquency, so we can make progress on this stuff, but it takes sustained effort, and over the long term in the inner city, we obviously have to create jobs, so people have a path where they can see, 'If I do the right thing, that's where I am going to end up,' and right now, I think too many young people see that they don't have choices. So economic development in these communities, making small-business loans to communities, making sure we are building infrastructure and hiring young people to work, for example, in making buildings in the inner city more energy-efficient, that's good for the homeowner or the apartment-dweller. It is also an opportunity to train young people to insulate homes and do other stuff that might lead to a career in construction someday."
On helping young immigrants become citizens:
"I have been consistent about this. What we need is a comprehensive approach. We are serious about the borders. We make sure folks aren't breaking the law. We crack down on employers who are unlawfully hiring undocumented workers, but we also provide a pathway to citizenship that has to be earned. People have to register, pay taxes, they have to pay a fine if they have come here illegally, they have to make sure they are learning English, if they don't already know English, they go to the back of the line so they don't get a legal residency before people who have applied legally, but I think we have to have a practical approach to this thing, so we make sure we have a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. That has been our history. We've got to do it in a way that isn't about left or right, ideological battles, we've just got to solve the problem."
On the Internet's impact on the election:
"It's a huge problem, but it is one you've just got to battle through. You can't control the Internet, and I am a big believer in freedom of speech and, obviously, hard-core obscenity or child pornography, there are areas where it is legitimate to intervene. But generally, my attitude is the Internet is something that should be free to access whatever information they want. It is amazing to me that people believe what they read on the Internet all the time, unfiltered. I mean some e-mail pops up, whether it is selling them something that doesn't make sense or some letter from Nigeria saying you can make money if you just send me your bank-account number, or in our politics, we have been subject to a number of people falsely saying I am Muslim — I'm Christian — suggesting I wasn't born in this country, even though I just walked by the hospital where I was born. There have been all kinds of crazy rumors out there taking place, and the best thing we can do is just battle bad information with good information. We try to make sure we get our story out. We use the Internet as well as any campaign ever has, and I want to continue to use the Internet as a way, not just for us to get our information out, but for people to give us back suggestions and recommendations and ideas and input. That's part of what democracy is about, that is part of what has been exciting about out campaign."