NEVADA — Ohio Congressman and Democratic presidential hopeful Tim Ryan said it's time for the country to rise about partisan bickering and focus on what needs to be done to improve its failing systems during a visit to a bar arcade in Nevada.
Fresh out of the national spotlight in last week's Democratic debates in Detroit, Ryan, one of 24 candidates seeking their party's presidential nomination, found himself surrounded by neon and the blinking lights of pinball machines as he spoke with about 30 people, including a several young children, at Time Out on Sixth Street in Nevada. He touched on a range of issues, from the economy and jobs, to immigration and the need to improve mental health services in the nation's schools.
He talked about the problems facing the country, saying all the systems in it are broken.
“It's time for us to move out of this left, right divide that we're stuck in today,” he said. “The big question that drives me crazy is where are you on the political spectrum. The reality is, if we're going to solve these problems it's not going to be left or right it's going to be new and better. We need new ideas. We need to imagine our way out of this mess we're in.”
He said the economic, criminal justice, agriculture, immigration, health care and environmental systems are broken.
“We can't reform these old broken systems, I think we need to figure out a way to transform, to build new systems, and ask everyone to be a part of it,” Ryan said.
The main challenge is how the country will create “good-paying jobs,” Ryan said.
“I will appoint within the first week or so that I”m president a chief manufacturing officer,” Ryan said. “I think we need to start making things again in the United States. What this person will do is help us dominate certain sectors of this economy.”
He said that person will work with him to bring the federal government together with venture capitalists and car manufacturers to build electric cars and the batteries and charging stations that will be necessary to build five million electric cars a year. That will help the U.S. dominate that technology and export it to the world, said Ryan, suggesting it would become a trillion dollar industry that would double union membership and create much-needed middle class jobs.
He said the country needs to do the same thing with solar energy technology, with wind, artificial intelligence, “so we coordinate all of the different entities in the United State to have us rowing in the same direction and then cut these workers in on the deal, and make sure these are well-paying jobs, union jobs with good benefits.”
By creating jobs that pay good wages, that will help people pay for childcare and college, Ryan said.
“The main problem in our economy over the past 40 years is we have not been creating the good, solid $30, $40, $50 an hour jobs that people want,” he said .”As president,that has to be our agenda. That has to be what we focus on.”
Ryan, who's wife is a first-grade teacher, talked about his plans to increase services for at-risk children in the nation's schools.
“We need to change the conversation around education from how to get higher test scores to how do we take care of our kids” he said. “If take care of our kids, the test scores will come along.”
He proposed putting a mental health counselor in every school, putting music and art therapy, play therapy, after school and summer programs in every district.
“I will promote and implement social and emotional learning in all of our classrooms, because we need to start teaching these kids to self-regulate themselves, how to deal with conflict better, and once they do that we see that their learning improves,” Ryan said.
That will help close the nation's achievement gap, and will better help the U.S. to compete with China and other countries.
The focus on education appealed to Nicole Christensen, who was born and raised in Nevada, but currently lives in Kansas City, and is a special education teacher in the Liberty, Mo., school district.
“There hasn't been enough focus on the mental health piece,” said Christensen, who is undecided in he support among the large Democratic field. “I like that he has a plan for this.”
Ryan also spoke about building a healthcare system that rewards preventative behavior and incentivizes doctors to help people stay healthy rather than only treating patients when they're sick.
He also talked about immigration, saying he doesn't support decriminalizing illegal border crossings. But he said he opposes dividing families and separating children from their parents, and that the country needs to create a humane, compassionate path to citizenship and amnesty.
He also proposed creating a regenerative agriculture system to reduce the amount of runoff, both waste and chemicals from farmland, that is damaging the environment and adding to the oxygen-depleted dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The system would sequester carbon from the air using cover crops, putting into the soil, helping rebuild the top soil and increasing the organic matter in the dirt. That will decrease the amount of fertilizer and chemicals used and improve water quality, Ryan said.
“These farmers are make money,” he said. “Some of them are moving completely away from subsidies from the crop insurance they have to get.”