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Levin goes to school

Congressman visits AP government class

June 12, 2013

» click to enlarge «
Cousino High School junior Nicole Burkel, right, asks U.S. Congressman Sander Levin, D-9th District, about the nation’s economy May 31.

WARREN — Cousino High School junior Nicole Burkel didn’t waste any time.

When face-to-face with Democractic U.S. Congressman Sander Levin, she asked a direct question.

“At what point is our economy going to crash?”

“We’ve taken steps to address the budget,” Levin told Burkel when visiting Roxanne Garrish’s classroom in Warren Consolidated Schools May 31. “We passed a bill some months ago that raised revenue on the very wealthy. We decided we needed to ask people to pay their fair share.”

He also said he voted to cut defense funding.

“We withdrew from Iraq, we are withdrawing from Afghanistan,” Levin said. “As our defense needs diminish, our defense cost diminishes. I don’t want to pass onto you ever-increasing debt.”

Burkel wasn’t completely satisfied with the answers.

“Our country is in danger,” she said. “I talk to my stepdad a lot. I think we need to cut everything except a few things.”

The high schooler, who has an interest in government and economics, was a bit nervous talking to the congressman during their mini-debate, but they kept it cordial.

“I’m a kid, and he’s been doing this for years,” Burkel said. “I was excited to meet him, even though we think differently.”

The Sequester is one topic the students have studied this semeseter. Garrish has done work with Levin’s office and invited him to speak to her students.

“It’s a opportunity for these kids to meet a representative,” she said.

The nation’s deficit, gun control, education and health care were among the issues Levin and the students discussed during the one-hour visit.

“These can very much affect you,” he said. He asked if the students had health care insurance, but many weren’t sure. “There are a million people in this state who are not covered by insurance.”

Levin — who represents Michigan’s 9th congressional district, which covers several cities including Warren and Sterling Heights — said the average student who finishes college today will leave school owing $30,000 to $35,000.

The politician also wanted to hear the students’ opinions on the gun control debate. Some students felt more background checks were a good idea, but added that people also have a right to protect themselves. A couple students said that even with additional firearm registration precautions, that would not stop some people from getting ahold of a gun.

Trying to get something done is what Levin likes most about politics. He said it’s so much more difficult “to get things done these days” because “there’s such a deep split” between the Democrat and Republican parties. He offered an example.

About 15 years ago, Levin and an Ohio Republican joined forces to secure “seed money” to begin anti-drug programs.

“On a bipartisan basis, we put together a bill. It passed and we were able to get $10 million. It now blossomed into $100 million per year,” Levin said. That was then. “That kind of bipartisan effort is extremely difficult because the parties are so divided. Even the Sequester has not gotten us to get together.”

Still, Levin said he loves what he does.

“Try to get involved with whatever you’re feeling and be interested,” he encourged the class.

“I thought it was very, very interesting,” senior David Burgess said of Levin’s visit. Burgess was one of two seniors present. Upon arriving in class, Levin asked the 12th-graders about their plans for after graduation.

“Starting my life,” Burgess said.

“You haven’t lived your life up until now?” Levin joked.

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