Winter Smith believes federal cutbacks are hurting the country’s social safety net, so she spoke about it. The 17-year-old Pasadena High School student expressed her concerns directly to Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) Wednesday.
As Schiff spoke to about 100 Pasadena High seniors in an hour-long session at the school’s Little Theater, Smith asked why the cuts keep coming as Americans struggle in the wake of the recession.
“Good question,” Schiff said. “Often, programs that get cut belong to people who don’t have too much voice. They are the homeless, seniors and the disabled.”
Schiff said funding for domestic programs is part of an ideological tug-of-war in Congress, where agreement on budget issues between Republicans and Democrats is rare these days. Despite a recent agreement on an extension of payroll tax cuts, he said that during this presidential election year, he expects to see little cooperation between members of the two parties.
“In the history of this recession, we take two steps forward and two steps back,” Schiff said. “We will spend more than last year, and yet the IOUs keep piling up. The tasks are how to keep the country moving without getting it more in debt.”
Another student asked Schiff about the Stop Online Piracy Act, a measure derailed earlier this year after popular Internet sites such as Wikipedia went dark for a day in protest. Schiff, whose district includes Warner Bros. Studios and the corporate headquarters of the Walt Disney Co., supported the measure because it would allow the government to curb sites that make available pirated recordings of movies and music.
Acknowledging the arguments of opponents, Schiff said the measure “may restrict legitimate speech, and access to good sites. But it cancels access to pirate sites.”
Schiff also expressed concerns about President Obama’s proposed $300 million cut to NASA’s planetary science program, a cut that could cost several hundred jobs at nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratories.
“Let’s not start [the cuts] with the most successful program in NASA,” he said.
Matt Smith, who teaches two of Pasadena High’s three Advanced Placement government classes, said the congressman’s presence gives students deeper insights into the world of government at the same time the class helps launch the students’ college careers.
“The classes count as freshman four-year college courses,” he said. “Many of our students apply, and get accepted at University of California campuses, and to some Ivy League universities. They get well informed, and know how government deals with issues of speech, religion and many others.”