Hansen home from the Hill Congressman aims to connect employers with workers

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By Jo Mathis

Legal News

The economy will improve when consumer debt -- not the federal government's debt -- is reduced, Rep.  Hansen Clarke said Thursday after touring the Detroit Legal News and Inland Press.

"Regardless of how we balance the federal budget, and the size of the federal debt and deficit, none of that matters if Americans aren't financially secure," he said.

Politicians' focus on job creation is not enough, he said.

"There are people even in this high unemployment region who are working but don't have money because they're paying all their money out in debt, whether it's their mortgage they're under-water on, the student loan it's going to take a few decades to pay off, the credit cards they've maxed-out on," he said. "To a certain degree, Congress has the responsibility to help Americans get out of debt because they've changed the rules with the financial institutions that encourage that type of undue indebtedness many Americans have taken on. And Congress has removed some of the protections individuals had from predatory practices."

But while Congress has some responsibility, Americans must stop over-spending for their own security as well as for the economy, he said.

As people have fewer debts, they'll have more purchasing power, and will be able to support employers who will hire more people.

Clarke believes in responsible government spending, and noted that during World War II, massive expenditures of borrowing and spending public dollars saved the country from fascism and got the country out of the Great Depression.

He said there was a point when he'd lost all hope of moving ahead in life. Then he got a job that was created by an act of Congress. Through the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), Clarke was hired to help truant students at Kettering High.

"It gave me what I needed again -- a sense of confidence that I could do something to help these kids," he said.

Eventually, he figured he could help more people by running for Congress.

The crisis over the debt ceiling is political, not economic, he said.

The federal government can borrow short-term at virtually no cost, and long-term at less than 3 percent, he said. But, he added, if a consumer misses a credit card payment, he's hit with a charge of nearly 30 percent.

At the same time, he said, government has to become more sufficient.

As a member of a science and technology committee, Clarke has learned that there are more than 100 federal programs dealing with science education.

"They have to be consolidated," he said. "I'm going to take action to do that. We have to coordinate and consolidate a lot of the risk assessments we do regarding hazardous chemicals. Government can be too unwieldy."

He said when government agencies are allocated a certain amount of money for that fiscal year, they have every incentive to spend all the money in order to justify the same money the next year.

Such perverse incentives lead to overspending and ineffective results, he said.

Instead, federal employees should be rewarded for being efficient.

Clarke has been getting the word out about Tuesday's For the People Job Fair and Town Hall Meeting sponsored by the National Black Caucus. He and Congressman John Conyers will host the event from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wayne County Community College at 1001 W. Fort. The goal is to connect employers with those who are looking for work.

He said he can relate to that feeling of hopelessness, and wants to help others find a way out, as well.

Bradley L. Thompson II, chairman and CEO of the Detroit Legal News, said he was happy to give Clarke a tour of the sprawling facility at 2001 W. Lafayette.

"While we're always proud to show off our commitment and investment in Detroit, it's particularly satisfying to show what we do to our local congressman," he said. "Congressman Clarke has been a tireless worker for Detroit for years in Lansing. It's wonderful that the people in Detroit have recognized that, and have now put him on the national stage where he can continue to work for jobs in our community and elsewhere."

Published: Fri, Aug 12, 2011