A Message from Congressman Sandy Levin

Nov 15, 2018 Issues: Gun Safety, Trade, Environment, Economy, Health Care, AntiDrug

November 2018

Dear Friend:

It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of Macomb and Oakland Counties for the past 36 years in Congress. I have tried to live up to the trust that you have placed in me and to stay grounded in the values of my parents and family.

Much has changed in Congress, the Nation and world during these years, more good than bad, but certainly some of both. One constant for me has been the belief that public officials have an obligation to say what they believe after digging deeply into the facts and consulting broadly. And we must talk to each other, not at each other, recognizing that conviction and compromise can and must coexist.

There has been important progress and achievements over the years, including defending Social Security from privatization proposals, helping rescue the U.S. auto industry during the "Great Recession," creating the Drug Free Communities Program to support anti-drug coalitions, and - of course - expanding access to affordable health care to millions of Americans, even as the work continues on so many problems, including making trade policies fairer for American workers. Below is an update on the issues I have been working on during my last term in office.

It has been a privilege to work with all those who have helped me along the way to understand and attempt to respond to the concerns and challenges facing people of every race, religion and background. Should you have thoughts or suggestions you would like to convey, please email me at RepSanderLevin@mail.house.gov or call my office in Roseville at (586) 498-7122.

Sincerely,

Sandy Levin


Issues Update


 

Stopping the Offshoring of U.S. Jobs

I opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 25 years ago because it failed to include basic labor and environmental protections, have fought to address these fundamental issues in every subsequent trade agreement, and now am working to ensure any renegotiated NAFTA addresses these critical issues. Earlier this year, I led a letter signed by 183 Democrats urging United States Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer to stop the outsourcing of American jobs by requiring Mexico to end the wage suppression of its workers through the denial of basic labor rights.

With the recent release of the text of an agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada on a revised NAFTA, there must now be active work with Mexico to achieve basic changes in their law and practice as a prerequisite for approval of a renegotiated NAFTA by the U.S. Congress. Any agreement must end Mexico's so-called "protection agreements" entered into with no worker participation or approval, and resulting in Mexican workers being paid only $1 to $2 an hour. This structure has denied Mexican workers a path to the middle class and has directly contributed to the loss of jobs and suppression of wages for U.S. workers.

Meeting with Michigan communications workers to discuss need for fair trade and tax policies

After adamantly opposing prior efforts to end the guarantee of Medicare benefits through privatization proposals, I have focused on strengthening the existing program. Last summer, I introduced the Medicare Dental, Vision, and Hearing Benefit Act of 2017 (H.R. 3111), which would expand the Medicare benefit package to include dental, vision, and hearing care.

Strengthening Medicare

The current gap in Medicare coverage has harmful consequences for older Americans. Poor dental care is closely associated with systemic health problems; vision loss is the third leading chronic condition among older adults and is closely associated with clinical depression and injuries due to falls; and hearing loss is a socially isolating condition that impacts about two-thirds of older Americans, yet only about 30 percent of individuals who could benefit from a hearing aid actually utilize one.

Preserving Drug Free Community Funding

21 years ago, then Representative Rob Portman (R-OH) and I co-sponsored the Drug Free Communities (DFC) Act to provide seed money to local anti-drug coalitions. For more than two decades, the coalitions in Oakland and Macomb Counties have thrived, and there has been an exponential growth of drug-free community coalitions throughout the United States.

In Michigan alone, from 2000 to 2023 there will have been $8,408,356 granted to local coalitions. All of this money goes directly to educate, advocate, and offer prevention services to promote healthier communities.

Over the last two years, we have successfully fought against the proposed defunding and elimination of the Drug Free Communities Act. The program was not only saved, but saw an increase in funding. At a time when our youth and communities are facing issues like the opioid epidemic, proliferation of drug abuse issues, and the ever-evolving problem of e-cigarette use among teens, local organizations dedicated to education and prevention have never been more important.

Addressing the importance of drug free community coalitions at CADCA's 27th Annual National Leadership Forum

Protecting the Great Lakes

With my regional colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we have been leading efforts in Congress to protect this vital natural resource and fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), including turning back misguided proposals from the Trump Administration to eliminate or significantly slash funding since it entered office.

Over the last eight years, the federal government has invested in more than 2,000 GLRI projects to clean up the Great Lakes, fight invasive species, target nearshore nonpoint pollution, restore habitat and protect wildlife, and promote environmental education and partnerships.

Fighting for Responsible and Fair Taxes

At the end of 2017, the Congress passed a partisan tax bill that would increase our nation's debt by $1.5 trillion, while proving huge tax breaks to corporations and wealthy individuals. The negative effect on our nation's debt is already being felt with the deficit growing by 17% in 2018 alone.

Highlighting the need to close one of the biggest tax loopholes for the very wealthy

According to data from the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), those with income of $1 million or more would receive an average aggregate tax cut of over $64,000 under the new tax law, while nearly 5 million households with income below $100,000 a year will actually see their taxes go up by over $500. This past September, the House of Representatives passed an additional bill that would add trillions more to the deficit by extending provisions, among others, that would cut the top income tax rate for those earning over $500,000 a year; double the exemption for the estate tax to $11 million for individuals and $22 million for couples; and provide a tax deduction for pass-through business income with 56% of the tax benefit going to those earning over $1 million a year. I fought and voted against both bills with the firm conviction that they were unfair and irresponsible.

Rebuilding Our Roads

In June, the federal Department of Transportation announced a $97 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) Grant for Mound Road to help restore and improve the 30-year old roadway, transforming it into a next generation commercial corridor. 

I worked closely with county and municipal officials from the outset of the grant application process, including by writing a letter in support to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in August 2017, and teaming with other Congressional leaders to send a joint letter of support this year.

Preventing Gun Violence

50 years ago, one week after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, I spoke on the issue of gun violence at Wayne State University, highlighting the paralysis of public policy to respond given the political muscle of the gun lobby. This same roadblock continues to exist today, even after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this year, and so many shootings before and after.

And yet, we have seen a community's grief transformed into a national demand for action, led by students here in Michigan and around the nation. It is far past time for the Congress to respond with common-sense reforms to reduce gun violence, including closing loopholes in the current background checks process and banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Meeting with Berkley students about gun violence

Seeking Bipartisan Immigration Reform

We need comprehensive immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, puts an end to family separation at the border, and provides appropriate border security.

Of particular concern in the metro-Detroit area, has been detention and attempted deportation of members of the Chaldean community, most of whom have lived and worked here for many years if not decades, have U.S. citizen children, and who would face an immediate threat to their safety if deported to Iraq. I worked to stay their deportation back in July 2017, demanded information about Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) rationale and plan for deporting the Chaldean-Americans, and personally visited a number of them being held in a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio.

Demanding Justice for the Unemployed

The Michigan Supreme Court is currently considering a case filed on behalf of jobless workers who were wrongly accused of fraud by the state's unemployment insurance (UI) system. Along with local advocates for these workers, I led the fight to uncover and demand a response to this scandal in which over 40,000 Michiganders, who were unemployed and looking for work, were falsely accused of fraud between 2013 and 2015 because of flaws in the Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS). Those impacted suffered financial hardship as the state garnished their wages and seized their property, forcing some into bankruptcy. This was a serious injustice and everyone affected deserves to be fully compensated for lost benefits, fees, penalties, legal expenses and other costs.