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U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn believes that any plan to attack the debt and deficits will not work unless it includes ways to create jobs. And while the points of his message were worth hearing, it was the method he used that really caught my eye.

Last week, he conducted a virtual town hall on the site where he addressed topics such as broadband access, job creation, the Bush tax cuts and medicare to name a few. These topics were in response to questions he received via email or phone during the town hall. This kind of access to elected officials is usually hard to come by — but in this lengthy session — people were allowed to hear his thoughts on all the major issues. I hope that other members of our government take his lead on this innovative way of staying connected to the pulse of their constituents.

You can hear the town hall here. And you can see highlights of some of his answers below.

  • On the need to expand adoption of broadband Internet access: “I’m convinced that our young people competing for jobs in the future will be competing in a global basis.”
  • On high-tech jobs: “I think that training, training and training must be done. I don’t think we put enough focus on training people for jobs of the future.”
  • On the Bush tax breaks and correcting tax loopholes: “I really believe in shared sacrifice. I believe we’ve allowed too much to get out of kilter. The fact of the matter is those tax breaks were unfairly tilted toward the wealthy. Everybody knows that. There is no denying it. I think tax breaks need to be fair. I don’t believe that closing a loophole is a tax increase.”
  • On Medicare: “We extended the life of Medicare by 14 years. We did so by cutting $500 billion out of Medicare on the provider side, so that we could pile that money back into Medicare on the benefits side. So nobody got their benefits cut, but it got misrepresented in the media. It was used against us in the campaign last year — $500 billion Medicare cuts — and a lot of people went crazy. The Ryan budget passed by the Republicans will continue big tax cuts for wealthy people while at the same time turn the Medicare program into some kind of a voucher that will cost Medicare recipients an additional $6,000 over a year. That’s the kind of stuff we’ve got to guard against.”
  • On disrespect in politics: “We’ve allowed the discourse in our society to become too course. We’ve allowed our treatment of each other to become too harsh. I just think that this treatment, that so many people are vicious toward President Obama, is beyond the pale. I don’t know anything in politics that will allow you to disrespect somebody. I can have differences with people in politics, but you don’t have to disrespect.”
  • On spending on infrastructure to help the economy: “I hope that this time around the president will make that a big part of his jobs program, to do these big infrastructure projects that will not only provide jobs in the short term but will have long-term benefits to communities.”


A tale of two job markets: Black America and Silicon Valley