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U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan discuss the federal debt at on-campus panel

May 3, 2013
In The News

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, D-Wis., spoke at a panel on campus Thursday about the increasing federal debt and the need for citizens, specifically students, to take notice and begin acting to remedy the issue through bipartisanship.

The panel, which was hosted by the Bipartisan Issues Group and the Can Kicks Back, among other organization, also included David Walker, a former U.S. comptroller who has since devoted most of his time to discussing the federal debt. The discussion mainly focused on using bipartisanship and increased communication to address federal debt issues, such as social security.

Both Pocan and Johnson highlighted that young people will be faced with major social security issues as the aging workforce begins to retire. They also said that the federal government, mainly through new budget discussions, should focus on addressing and fixing the country’s major issues, such as social security and health care, instead of pushing such decisions off to the future.

Each of the three panelists said the best way to start making the changes would be to have conversations with legislators from both parties, as well as their constituents, specifically the younger ones.

“I think the first step in bipartisanship should be forums like this, where we are educating the American public together on the full depth of the problem,” Johnson said. “We need to prepare Americans for a solution.”

Pocan said he believes such conversations can be effective, even when both sides do not agree on the issues in question.

“[Legislators] might have some different ways about how [they] want to get to the places [they] want to be, but unless [we] can sit at the table and have that conversation, [legislators] are going to continue doing what Washington does all too well, nothing,” Pocan said.

Walker concluded his discussion on the panel by urging young people to get “disproportionately” involved in the federal debt discussions, because social security issues will impact them in the future.

“The truth is young people are not as engaged in this as they need to be,” Walker said. “Young people have a disproportionate interest in getting this solved [because they] are going to have to pay more of the bill.”