For years, as a professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Susan Boser told students that if they were troubled by what was happening in society, they should become active and even consider running for elected office.
Boser is now following her own advice.
She is the Democratic Party nominee in Pennsylvania’s 15th Congressional District, going up against U.S. Rep. Glenn “G.T.” Thompson, R-Centre County.
“It’s about walking the talk, so I made the decision to do it,” Boser said during an interview at The Tribune-Democrat on Thursday.
Boser, who grew up in Ellicottville, New York, has focused much of her platform on issues affecting rural areas.
“I know what small town means,” Boser said. “There’s a social fabric there that matters a lot.
“That’s a lot behind what my commitment is to this race. I believe in small towns as a way of life, and I think they’re getting killed right now. I think the policies favoring the big corporations are wiping out the economies in the small towns.
“And, because of that, the adult kids aren’t coming back, which is ripping apart the social fabric, and that causes social problems.”
She feels those small communities are being negatively affected by policies that disproportionately benefit larger corporations and the elected officials they back. Boser supports campaign finance reform and exploring anti-trust legislation.
“In order to develop polices that are going to benefit the rural areas, the first thing we have to do is de-couple our politicians from the big corporate money,” Boser said. “The policies that we have are because of high levels of corporate donations. And, for that reason, I am not taking a single penny of corporate money or corporate PAC money at all. I’m solely funded by individuals. And that leaves me then not beholden to corporate interests, but rather beholden only to the people of the 15th District.”
Boser proposes changing the focus to helping small business through low-cost loans, technical assistance, cutting through some regulations, improving broadband access by working with rural co-operatives, exploring renewable energy development and using vacant industrial sites for data centers.
“A big part of the message is that the policies that we have that are pro-business right now are strongly orientated toward pro-corporate and multi-national corporate interests, and that those kinds of policies support some segments of society, but they don’t support all segments of society,” she said. “And, in particular, who’s getting hurt are people in rural areas.”
Specifically, in the dairy industry that has been hit hard by low milk prices, she wants to see “investing in opportunities for some of these farmers or other entrepreneurs to put in small artisan-style processing for dairy.” Boser added: “Maybe give a grant to the food, nutrition and science department at Penn State. Have them come up with some particular flavors of ice cream or yogurt that could be branded as western Pennsylvania.”
Struggles in rural areas can lead to what Boser described as a sense of despair that can be seen in increasing suicide rates and an opioid crisis.
When dealing with the drug issue, she would want to ensure “that we have adequate treatment facilities that are accessible and affordable throughout all the areas, but in particular, in the rural areas.”
Regarding the issue of overall heath care, she supports developing a single-payer system.
“If we deal with health care as a nation, though, and move to a single-payer system, the cost overall of health care actually – by comparison to what happens in other western industrialized nations – should go down,” Boser said. “When we have a system that is not just reactive to needs – but rather proactive through a single-payer type of system – then we would be managing those costs better and wouldn’t place the states in the same kind of position that they’re in right now.”
She also placed an importance on lowering the cost of education in an attempt to reduce the burden of student loans facing many young adults.
“I think that it’s absolutely critical that we provide, as a state and as a country, public education that is affordable, and I would argue that part of that also involves tuition free – straight up through community college – and I would even look at four-year university degrees as well,” Boser said.
“It is in many countries, and it could be here as well. Likewise, I think we need to be providing public education for the trades that is also going to affordable or free tuition as well. I think educating our citizens is part of the responsibility of the government and we should be doing that.”