U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.) sharply criticized the first 100 days of the new Republican-controlled Congress in an afternoon speech yesterday at Boylston Hall.
"This 100 days jihad has been devastating to a lot of people in the country," Kennedy said.
In a speech titled "Prospects for a Democratic Future," Kennedy addressed a wide variety of issues in his opening remarks in front of an audience of 25 people.
Kennedy, who has been in Congress since 1987, reiterated his support for a balanced budget amendment, a measure which passed in the House earlier in the year and then subsequently failed in the Senate.
"Someone has to come up with a balanced budget," Kennedy said. "The country is not paying its bills."
Kennedy, the eldest son of Robert F. Kennedy '48, said because of the low voter participation of young people, programs which are geared toward them are easy targets for Republicans looking to cut items from the federal budget.
"Twenty five percent of the people in the 18 to 25 range vote, while 90 percent of those over 90 vote...we know seniors vote," Kennedy said. "[Students'] programs are put into a category called discretionary spending and they are the first programs to be cut. [Senior citizens'] programs are called entitlements and they can't be touched."
In recent months, House Republicans have proposed wide-ranging cuts in such domestic programs as student loans, school-lunches and federal housing.
The Republicans say these cuts were necessary in order to balance the budget.But Kennedy argued that their proposals would notchange the deficit.
"None of the [cuts] went to reduce the deficit,they just went to a tax cut for the country,"Kennedy said.
Despite President Clinton's low approvalratings, Kennedy yesterday predicted that Clintonwill win re-election next year.
"When I look at the Republicans, it is a fairlymean-spirited crowd," Kennedy said. "If youcombine [U.S. Sen.] Bob Dole (R-KA) or [U.S. Sen.]Phil Gramm (R-TX) as president, [U.S. Rep.] NewtGingrich (R-GA) as [House] Speaker and [U.S. Sen.]Trent Lott (R-Miss.) in the Senate, that is a verymean-spirited triumvirate."
In wake of the recent terrorist bombing of thefederal office building in Oklahoma City, Kennedysaid the country must increase its vigilance, butin doing so cannot trample individual rights ofthe nation's citizens.
"We're a democracy and we can't let terroriststake over our right as individuals andorganization to protest those policies [of ourgovernment] which we think are wrong," he said.
Kennedy ended his talk by encouraging thestudents present to become active in the politicalarena.
"Society says you people don't count, but thereis one place where you can count and that is inpolitics," Kennedy said.
"You can go out and make a difference," headded. "The country really needs you.