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Congressman Jim McGovern visits UMass for event hosted by UMass Democrats

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Congressman Jim McGovern gave a talk and proceeded to take photos with the guests. (Claire Anderson/Daily Collegian)

Congressman Jim McGovern gave a talk and proceeded to take photos with the guests. (Claire Anderson/Daily Collegian)

U.S. Rep Jim McGovern, a representative for Massachusetts’ 2nd District, paced back and forth in room 176 of the Campus Center and emphasized that if the human aspect of politics should return to American governance, it requires the efforts of Democrats across the country.

“The responsibility falls in the hands of the likes of you, not only to be active participants but also teachers to everyone in your community about the issues that directly affect them that they may not be aware of,” McGovern said.

McGovern fielded questions from approximately 25 attendees Tuesday evening at a meet and greet organized by the Registered Student Organization, UMass Democrats. McGovern addressed the budget deficit, Republican-dominated Congress and funding of higher education, but returned to a core message: citizens need to take an active role if there is to be a significant reversal away from a trend of “extremism” in today’s politics.

“The truth is that the Republican base is becoming more and more extreme,” McGovern said. “What I’ve found is that many supporters voting for members of say, the Tea Party, are doing so against their own self-interest … The right leaders are very skillful at talking about hot topic issues while ignoring what matters most in other people’s lives.”

McGovern said that he wants informal meetings such as Tuesday’s to become the rule rather than the exception. He added that the only way for representatives to reflect on the needs of their constituents is to hear from voters about the issues that matter most.

McGovern also addressed the government’s steps to ensure that higher education does not become a luxury for the rich as opposed to a right for all people by emphasizing the need to balance priorities between pragmatic spending and providing the services necessary for effective social programs.

“I don’t believe in the notion that achieving budgetary balance comes through decreasing the standard of living,” McGovern said.

Lucas Gutterman, a junior computer science major and member of MASSPIRG, asked McGovern about what he planned to do to prevent the proposed budget cuts to Pell Grants and federal student aid.

Pell Grants are awards granted by the federal government to low-income students aimed to assist funding their college education, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s website.

Under new budget provisions, $2 billion of the Pell Grant’s surplus would be reallocated to fund other deficits. Proponents for the Pell Grant argue that without a sufficient surplus, the grants would eventually be depleted, according to an article from usnews.com.

McGovern said he was opposed to any initiative that made acquiring higher education more difficult for families across the class spectrum.

“Especially now, we need a workforce with as much education as possible. The best way to address a budget deficit isn’t through massive cuts but by creating jobs. The greatest thing you can do is graduate from here get a job and contribute to the economy,” McGovern said.

He followed that if these types of programs are to continue, then alternative sources of revenue must be established through bipartisan compromise. He took another opportunity to discuss the partisan nature that dominates a republican controlled Congress as a large obstacle to solving some of the nation’s economic problems.

“In times where campaigns approach, we need to use to talk intelligently about issues instead of referring to soundbite speeches … the notion that we’re broke and can’t afford to fund other programs is a formula for economic disaster,” McGovern said

He continued by saying that the Democratic party is not without fault. In order for the issues he and some of the attendees mentioned to be solved, Democrats must take the offensive.

“If you love your country, you criticize it when something is going wrong,” McGovern said.

He referred to his own time as a college student as an example. He said he organized sit-ins and demonstrations, but emphasized that these types of movements must be informative at the same time. His comments drew a humored response from Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, who sat in during the discussion.

“Don’t give them any ideas,” Subbaswammy said.

McGovern concluded his discussion by returning to his opening remarks, which encouraged civilian participation in the process of politics.

“I encourage you to contact your representatives, attend meetings like this and stay active,” he said. “Look closely at the policies offered and who stands to benefit from them, and use points of access as a way to push back.”

Brendan Deady can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @bdeady26.

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