Senator speaks about current events in D.C.

James Dyer

Students with questions about U.S foreign policy, the recession or corruption on Wall Street had the chance to get answers from a special expert on Wednesday, when U.S. Senator Carl Levin paid a visit to NMU.

The senior senator gave his presentation, titled “Global Impact: Economy, Conflicts and Jobs,” in the Meade Auditorium at 10:30 a.m., followed by a question-and-answer session with NMU students. Much of the focus was on current events in Washington.

“The issue of revenue is a big issue being debated in Washington right now. The Republicans are filibustering just about everything we do,” Levin said. “A colleague joked that it takes 60 votes to get a drink of water around here.”

A large portion of the presentation also zeroed in on public worry about our national deficit.

As a compromise to defaulting on our debt, a congressional super committee was formed to deal with the issue.

Currently, the committee is having its own problems compromising with partisan ideologies, Levin said.

“When previous administrations have focused on deficit reduction, talk was balanced between spending cuts and revenue (tax) increases,” said Levin, who served in the Senate during the budget surplus enjoyed by the Clinton administration in the ’90s. “Unless this ideology is accepted by Republicans, I don’t see how there could be a spending package that comes out of the super committee.”

After his presentation, Levin took questions from the audience. Topics ranged from the Occupy Wall Street movement and America’s credit rating to foreign policy and the wars in the Middle East.

U.S. troops are in the midst of a massive drawdown in Iraq, Levin said. Combat forces are scheduled to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year, and the United States will instead focus on training native soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The nightmare for the Taliban is facing a large, well trained and popular army,” Levin said. “Our further presence in the middle east serves as a propaganda machine for them.”
The political science symposium was sponsored by NMU’s political science department.

Associate professor David Haynes, a longtime friend of Levin, said that it was an honor to have a speaker with such a huge impact on Michigan.

“As chair of the Armed Forces Committee, he’s a leader on one of the most powerful committees in the senate,” Haynes said. “Senator Levin is an important world figure as well as a Michigander.”

The event attracted more attention than the Mead Auditorium could handle; after crowding 130 people into the auditorium, an additional 70 students saw the presentation via video feed from the LRC. Another 40 students also participated through a video feed from Bay College in Escanaba.

Senior communications studies major Josh Todd said the presentation highlighted the struggles and frustrations of American people with their government.

The jobs package proposed by President Obama and discussed by Levin seemed like more of a short-term fix, rather than a long-term solution.

“There’s a lot of bad blood between parties,” Todd said. “The idiocracy has created a gridlock in Congress. If that doesn’t change, nothing will be solved.”

Despite the economic struggles of the past decade, the American people will prevail in the end, Levin said.

“I hope that despite frustration, the American spirit will dominate,” Levin said. “I’m confident that the optimism of this country will come through.”