At Whitney Brothers

Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney, center, and his wife, April McClain-Delaney, tour Whitney Bros. in Keene Wednesday with company President Mike Jablonski. Whitney Brothers makes educational furniture for children.

Democratic presidential candidate John Delaney cautioned voters against falling for “impossible promises” and “bumper sticker slogans” in his latest trip to the Elm City Wednesday.

The former Maryland congressman has been running for president since July 2017, and was the first 2020 presidential candidate to sit down for an editorial board interview with The Sentinel.

Central to Delaney’s campaign is what he describes as keeping what’s working and fixing what’s broken.

On health care, he is against Medicare-for-all.

Instead, Delaney said he prefers a universal health care system with a public option available for everyone up to the retirement age. Americans could also purchase supplemental private insurance coverage or exchange the public plan for a tax credit that can be used to buy private insurance.

He expressed a deep concern that if the Democrats run on abolishing private health insurance, the party could end up guaranteeing a victory for President Donald Trump.

“If we run on taking that away from these people, we will lose to Donald Trump by 10 points, because he’ll spend a billion dollars scaring the American people [into believing] that the health insurance that you like, the Democrats are going to take away for no reason,” Delaney said.

Delaney noted that Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement presents particular challenges not only to the policy proposals of some of his opponents, but also to Granite Staters.

Delaney said that in addressing addiction and mental health in New Hampshire, reimbursement rates are too low for any progress to be made. The system works, he argues, only because hospitals and providers overcharge private health insurers to compensate for the 70 and 80 percent rates for the public programs.

Relying solely on expanding those programs, Delaney said, will lead to a decrease in access to health care in New Hampshire and nationwide.

“That creates a situation where, yeah, maybe there’s Medicaid mental health benefit in New Hampshire, but good luck trying to find [a provider] who takes it,” he said.

Delaney attributed the devastation of the opioid crisis to three main factors he would seek to address: economic despair in rural communities, a lack of mental health parity in the insurance system — noting that mental health insurance claims are four times as likely to be denied as a physical health claim — and pharmaceutical companies remaining unscathed for denying the addictive nature of painkillers in prescribing guidelines.

“... I think they knew that they were wrong,” Delaney said of pharmaceutical industry executives. “These companies get data every half hour on everything they sell all over the world. It’s at the dashboard of the fingertips of the CEOs. They knew exactly what was going on.”

In a policy plan released this week, Delaney proposed fining the executives if he becomes president.

Pointing to the national stage, Delaney complained about not being able to highlight his approach to the opioid epidemic during last week’s debates on NBC.

“I tried to get a word in edgewise at the debate on this — no. They ask about the Mueller Report [on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election],” Delaney said. “No one cares about the Mueller Report, in truth. Like, they really don’t. They care about this kind of stuff.”

Delaney’s pragmatism also extended to the global stage.

While addressing the seriousness of deploying troops abroad — which he said a president should first contemplate while walking around Arlington National Cemetery — Delaney said he is in favor of reducing the number of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but believes that a full withdrawal is not possible in the near future.

“I mean I think it’s — we have 14,000 troops in Afghanistan and I think 5,000 in Iraq — I think we have to reduce that dramatically, but I don’t think we can get to zero right now because I think it is in our national interest to have a presence there working with local security forces to ensure that these places don’t become breeding grounds of terrorism,” he said.

On climate change, he said he would pursue a tax on carbon. In an effort to avoid overburdening many Americans with the increased expenses, Delaney added that people would get a dividend greater than what they would be paying in heightened costs for gas and electricity.

The main target of that tax revenue, Delaney said, would be investing in carbon capture technology, which sucks polluted air through large ventilation systems and filters out the carbon, which ends up in the form of beads.

But Delaney emphasized that, to sell the proposal to the American people, not all of the tax revenue could go towards things like carbon capture and green energy innovation. As examples of voters revolting against climate legislation, he cited the unrest of the Yellow Vest protests in France and criticized his opponent, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.

“... He’s tried to get a carbon tax bill passed twice in a very Democratic state, but it always failed,” Delaney said. “Why? Because he was putting a price on carbon, raising the energy prices for the average American, and the government was going to keep the money and invest it in green energy projects. That sounds good, but no one actually trusts that that will be good for them.”

Delaney discussed his education plan in depth, and then later with employees at Whitney Brothers manufacturing on Railroad Street in Keene.

He said he is opposed to free college and government-funded debt forgiveness, arguing that it would be unfair to those who choose not to go to college and that the money could be better spent on initiatives across the board, such as universal pre-K.

Brian Vaillancourt, 56 of Peterborough, asked Delaney during a roundtable at Whitney Brothers about his approach to college affordability.

Vaillancourt said he is a registered Libertarian, but plans on voting in the Democratic primary in 2020. At the moment, he said he is concerned about the party being too far to the left, but would like to see a palatable candidate emerge so he can vote against Trump.

While he remains undecided, one of Delaney’s lines during the roundtable got Vaillancourt nodding in agreement.

“I’m much more of a candidate who has real solutions instead of these impossible promises,” Delaney said in reference to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “I don’t think what this country needs is a bunch of bumper sticker slogans posing as policies. I think we need real solutions that actually would work, and we tell the American people how we’re gonna pay for them, and how we’re gonna get them done. And that’s what my campaign is about.”

Jake Lahut can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or jlahut@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @JakeLahut.