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Midway through his lecture in Salomon 001 Monday afternoon, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., made a confession. "I am one of the few Democrats you will never hear giving much celebration to Franklin Roosevelt," he said.

Roosevelt's New Deal "was a raw deal to many of the communities that I represent," Clyburn said. In its efforts to spur recovery after the Great Depression, "jobs did not go to non-white communities."

Clyburn's lecture, "Making All Communities a Part of the American Recovery and Resurgance," was part of the Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions' John Hazen White Sr. lecture series. The talk addressed racial and economic disparities within the American political process and how all citizens can benefit as the nation recovers from the current recession.

The question of what defines community was key to Clyburn's speech. "I believe it's a state of mind. It's all about people developing tolerance, having hope," he told The Herald. "Community, if it's defined in a positive way … is about countries coming together with a shared value system."

Even as he criticized inequalities, Clyburn noted, "I have never been an advocate of equality. There is often no equity in equality."

He elaborated on this point with a story about his family. "I have three daughters. They're different. I don't treat them equally," he said.

Clyburn voiced support for increasing taxes on income over $200,000 and changing the structure of Social Security taxes.

"If you make $100,000 a year, you pay Social Security taxes on 100 percent of your income," Clyburn said. "If you make $200,000 a year, you pay taxes on 50 percent," because taxes on Social Security are capped at $100,000. "I think we need to do some serious looking into it."

When answering audience questions, Clyburn's bold claims earned wild applause from the audience.

"I think we should get out of Afghanistan by tomorrow evening," he said in response to a question about foreign policy. But realistically, he added, "I really believe the president ought to stick to his timeline on Afghanistan."

In response to several questions criticizing the national government's — particularly Democratic leaders' — failure to live up to expectations, he acknowledged the mistakes made by Congress and President Obama.

When an audience member said more money should have gone into the 2009 stimulus plan, Clyburn said the House of Representatives' original plan included $2 billion in infrastructure spending that was later taken out by the Senate.

In response to a criticism that Obama has not spoken out more for tax increases on the highest earners, Clyburn answered, "I agree with you 100 percent."

His tone was positive overall. The unemployment rate is coming down and "people are expressing more hope for the future," he told The Herald.

"I think everything in the economy is on the mend except for housing," he added. "I don't know what we're going to do about housing, to tell you the truth."

He voiced approval for the president, acknowledging the difficulty of working with a divided government.

That is not to say Obama has dislodged Harry Truman as Clyburn's favorite president, he said. "But you can do something about that," he said, looking around for aspiring politicians in the audience. "You can make him my second favorite."



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