Levin: more tax cuts do not constitute an economic policy

Published 1:28 am Tuesday, April 15, 2003

By By JOHN EBY / Dowagiac Daily News
More tax cuts do not constitute an economic policy, U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said at Dowagiac Union High School Monday.
Most Democrats, himself included, favor investing in people and infrastructure to "get this weak economy going. We've got to put money into jobs, into education and into human capital. We've got to build roads and sewer systems, repair and build schools, build water systems. We've got a lot of job-creation building to do in this country if we're going to get this economy going again as it was during the Clinton years."
President Bush's reliance on upper-income tax cuts "are going to push us right back into a deficit ditch," Levin said.
To students he said, "That's going to cost all of you a lot of money. You're going to inherit bigger and bigger debt. We are now giving tax cuts instead of applying our resources in the way I just discussed. We're paying for tax cuts by borrowing. That's what it amounts to. I think it's irresponsible and reckless to be creating more and more debt so we can give larger tax cuts to people who not only don't need them, but who got the largest cuts over a year ago in the first round of the Bush tax program," Levin said.
Speaking in the Union High media center, Levin said the Bush administration has presided over the loss of 2 million jobs. "It is the first in about 50 years that has seen a loss in actual numbers of jobs."
Levin recalled the surplus achieved at the end of the Clinton administration for two years after 40 years of deficits by "cutting the size of every single federal agency and by increasing taxes -- gas tax by 4 1/2 cents a gallon for deficit reduction and we increased taxes 3 1/2 percent on upper-income people who earn more than $150,000. Politically, Republicans ran against Democrats because they increased taxes -- which we did. That's when (former House speaker Newt) Gingrich came to office. We did it in a fair way and it worked. We got rid of the deficit and we had a really humming economy during the 1990s. We're now going back in the exact opposite direction of big spending. We're increasing defense spending a lot. Tax cuts on top of spending increases are going to lead to an economy that's too soft for too long."
Students questioned why the government pays foreign aid to other countries rather than its own bills.
Levin disagrees with the administration's foreign policy as "too unilateral -- too much on our own and not enough working through the world community. The 'you're with us or against us' rhetoric was too reckless in many ways. I think his policy is wrong in North Korea. As much as we don't like them, we ought to be talking to them. We pulled out of Bosnia before NATO. I believe we ought to work with NATO and not be unilateral. It's an alliance."
A lot of things done for other countries are actually in the U.S. interest, he suggested, using Russia as an example. Levin said America is leveraging that money to dismantle missiles formerly pointed at us and to safeguard nuclear materials.
Asked what motivates him, Levin responded, "I can't think of a more exciting job than I have. I love going to work, I love the challenge. Even though the Democrats no longer control the Senate," where he has served for 25 years, "every senator has some power because of the filibuster rule which requires 60 senators to agree. There are minority rights. Every senator, since we have 49 Democrats, we only need 41 to stop stuff from happening. We don't feel powerless the way the minority does in the House."
Levin gave as examples "of what I've been able to do in the last few weeks" as reforming Enron-type corporate abuses. "We changed some laws to make it a lot tougher for directors, corporate officers and accountants to engage in deceptive practices. We really strengthened our laws to go after corporate abuses which sent the stock market reeling" by giving the Securities and Exchange Commission broader powers.
He has also "gotten involved in a new way of treating drugs" in which doctors can prescribe new medications. "If you're a heroin addict, until my law got passed, you either continued to be addicted or tried to get rid of it cold turkey or took a substance called methadone, which is itself addictive. It was not readily available because you had to go to a methadone clinic to be treated.
Travel is another Senate perk. "I recommend it to anyone who can. Going to see other places will make you appreciate your homes more and it will open up your eyes to how the rest of the world lives. Part of it is horrendous. Part of it is wonderful. It will change your life and make it more exciting," Levin said. "I have lots of reasons to want to get up every morning. The only reason not to is because I'm usually tired."
Levin, accompanied to Dowagiac by his wife since 1961, Barbara, was born in Detroit in 1934 and graduated from Central High School.
In 1956 he graduated with honors from Swarthmore College and from Harvard Law School in 1959.
Levin won election to Detroit City Council in 1969 and became its president in 1973. In 1978, he upset the Senate's No. 2 Republican. He was re-elected in 1984, 1990, 1996 and in 2002.
Levin, taking advantage of a two-week recess, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Governmental Affairs Committee. He also serves on the Small Business Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.