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Youths get primer on tough calls in Congress


A high school student asked U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman about Stutzman’s $17 trillion national debt Monday.

“It’s not just mine. It’s yours, too,” Stutzman replied before complaining that the federal government lacks a sense of urgency on the matter.

Stutzman, R-3rd, fielded questions for an hour at IPFW’s Civics Day, attended by 100 juniors and sophomores from area school districts.

He gave them a primer on Congress, along with several reasons to vote for or against him when they turn 18.

A Homestead High School student wanted to know why Stutzman, who stands for re-election this year, had voted for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which would allow for the government and companies to share computer data.

The Republican House approved the bill, but the Democratic Senate hasn’t considered it.

“It’s a very difficult balance, because you don’t want to give the government too much authority, too much power over the Internet,” Stutzman said.

But the legislation could help prevent China and Russia from hacking into U.S. computer networks and stealing military secrets and companies’ private information about products and technologies, he said.

“It’s going to take some federal government participation because large companies are saying they can’t do it alone,” he said.

When it came to a query about electronic data collection by the National Security Agency, Stutzman said “something has to change” to stop privacy abuses.

Again, the LaGrange County farmer tried to strike a balance, saying the NSA needs “the ability to go after the bad guys, but that it doesn’t spy or collect any sort of information from American citizens.”

Following are his partial responses to other questions posed by the students at the Walb Student Union:

•On political partisanship. “You have to find people on the other side of the aisle to work with. … If you are going to point fingers, you are going to waste a lot of time, and I don’t believe we have a lot of time to waste,” Stutzman said.

•On immigration policy. Stutzman favors the House approach of addressing visas, employment verification, border security and other citizenship issues in separate proposals instead of the Senate’s single comprehensive immigration measure. “When you take bills and you just shove them together and logroll them, you start getting laws passed that you never knew was in the bill,” he said.

•On military spending reductions contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011. “It was unfair to the military to be taking the larger cuts in spending when we didn’t touch hardly anything else,” he said, later adding, “I fear that if we weaken ourselves too much, countries like Russia and China are going to see it as an opportunity to advance influence and advance any sort of power in the rest of the world.”

•On gun rights and gun controls. “The Second Amendment guarantees the rights of the First Amendment,” Stutzman said. Mentally ill people should be denied access to firearms, he said.

•On funding Social Security. Stutzman said he supports raising the age for receiving Social Security benefits and requiring means testing for recipients. “If you are Bill Gates, you don’t need Social Security, I don’t think,” he said about the Microsoft co-founder, whose worth is estimated at $76 billion by Forbes.

Stutzman is opposed in the May 6 Republican primary election by Mark William Baringer of Fort Wayne and James E. Mahoney III of Huntington.