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Blog: Baron Hill wants to grow economy
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Blog: Baron Hill wants to grow economy

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Former southern Indiana congressman Baron Hill is unopposed in the Democrat primary race for U.S. Senate, but he's not standing still. Hill is making the rounds across the state, trying to build support for his candidacy.

I met up with Hill Wednesday evening at the Moose lodge in Michigan City. He comes from Seymour, but he knows what matters in Northwest Indiana, starting with the economy.

"Terrorism is always going to be around, but I think we've got to keep it in perspective," Hill said. "Is it a threat to the United States? Yes. But there are other things that are more of a threat to the United States, and that's economic insecurities, wage stagnation and those kinds of things."

How can this be accomplished? Hill offered this thoughts.

"You've got to offer affordable education so people can get the skills to fill the jobs in the new economy," Hill said. He's not going so far as to promise free college degrees, as some candidates have discussed.

"The immediate thing we can do is raise the minimum wage. We ought to be doing that," he said.

The federal minimum was last increased in 2009, to $7.25 an hour, when Hill was in the House.

Hill served as congressman for the 9th District from 1995 to 1999 and from 2007 to 2011. Indiana Attorney General is among the House candidates in that congressional district this year.

"Thirdly, we need to be strengthening labor unions, not weakening them like we have been in Indiana," he said.

Indiana is a right-to-work state now.

Hill aims to avoid cutting taxes much more than they are now as a way to chip away at the national debt.

As the economy gains strength, he said, there would be more pressure to increase wages to keep and recruit workers.

"The stakes are pretty high in 2016 because there's a pool of candidates who want to wipe away what we have in place," he said.

The angry electorate that has been much discussed this year, he said, is primarily on the Republican side. He expects that to ease once the primary elections are over and the focus is on the general election.

"Donald Trump is unfortunately tapping into that anger in a way that is not healthy for America, in my belief," he said.

"When he taps into that anger, he foams it up and gets people all rabid up, and says things that are inappropriate and irrational and hateful in many regards," Hill said. "And when you do that, it validates people to do things they shouldn't be doing."

Hill mentioned the Andrean vs. Bishop Noll Institute boys basketball game.

"This needs to stop. This is not America."

We moved the conversation from tensions over differences between Americans to differences between nations, particularly foreign trade.

"Steel is a national security issue anymore, and we've got to protect steel to some degree," he said. "Because we don't want the Chinese to provide the steel to build our ships and our warplanes."

"It's a little bit different for steel. We've got to go beyond the pale to make sure that industry is protected."

Hill said he doesn't agree with the Trans Pacific Partnership as it is currently written.

He cited a conversation with a woman who makes harps at her shop by the Ohio River. About 85 percent of her harps are exported. She opposed the TPP because the trade agreement doesn't offer protections for small businesses. That's a point that hit home for Hill.

"I think we need a rules-based trading system. The question is, can we find one that's fair?"

On health care, Hill wants to improve Obamacare, not scrap it. "I voted for the Affordable Care Act. I believe in it."

"There are millions of people who have insurance who didn't have it before. That's a fact; I'm not making that up. That's a good thing, not a bad thing," he said.

What does not to be addressed is inequity. "Some people are paying a whole lot more now, and some are not paying enough, and we've got to do something about that."

Politics/History Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

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