Making Big Data Actionable: Economist Raj Chetty Brings Unique Brand of Research to Equity and Education

By Karen Dybis

Taxes, educational equity, unemployment: When it comes to research, Raj Chetty takes on topics other economists might avoid.

Chetty’s work as one of the nation’s top economists could be boiled down to one question: How can we as a country give children from disadvantaged backgrounds better opportunities? Chetty believes that with data, innovative programs and a lot of curiosity, the United States can help more people achieve the American Dream.

“We’re trying to bring modern data – ‘Big Data’ – to bear on these questions of equality and social mobility,” Chetty said from his office as the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics at Harvard University. He also is the director of Opportunity Insights, which uses big data to understand how the United States can boost the success rate for children of disadvantaged backgrounds.

What makes Chetty’s work stand out is the way he works – he blends empirical evidence with his expertise in economic theory. The result is easy-to-understand solutions that take government programs and long-standing notions about poverty, education and economic mobility and turns them into effective policies.

DATA SHOWS INEQUALITY  OF OPPORTUNITY 

In other words, Chetty is the kind of economist who wants to make data not only accessible but actionable. For example, he delved into IRS tax data to show what he calls “inequality of opportunity” right down to the neighborhood level. He looks at cities from a micro and macro perspective, including Detroit and Michigan, to understand why some children rise and others, especially Black young men, can face downward mobility.

“In Detroit, the racial divide is significant. As a population, it’s an important issue. How do you create better opportunity for Black Americans living in Detroit?” Chetty asked. “Where are they living? How can they do better? An important piece of the puzzle that we find in our data is … there is a persistent effect of racial disparity. It’s not just about giving more resources to schools. It’s about why Black kids going to the best schools still have disparities.”

One solution Chetty recommends is early intervention with quality preschool as well as top-tier teachers early on. Others include mentorship and looking at the criminal justice system to ensure Black men are present in neighborhoods as fathers and leaders.

INTERRUPTIONS AT YOUNGER AGES HAVE LIFELONG IMPACTS 

In other words, action based on data will lead to important changes for mobility, equality and a better life for all. In that regard, he walks the talk: Chetty is part of a pilot program in Seattle working with families to help them better utilize housing vouchers to move to higher-opportunity areas. These interventions at younger ages have life-long impacts on income potential and overall success, he notes. Detroit could create similar programs, he said.

“Detroit has made great strides in recent years, bringing back major employers and its overall revitalization,” Chetty said. “But does that benefit current Detroiters versus people moving in? … To remedy that, you need a deliberate strategy to increase upward mobility and connect (Detroit residents) to these jobs.”

Business and governmental leaders need to think about how to build a pipeline for people to succeed – and that all comes back to the things that matter most, such as taxes, educational equity and unemployment.

“For the business community, they need to understand that at the end of the day, their ability to thrive depends on human capital. How can you build up a better pool of skills? You invest in the people, and especially in the kids growing up in Detroit,” Chetty said. “It’s in their own interests in the long run to make these investments, to give back to the local community and to create a pipeline to opportunity.”

Karen Dybis is a freelance writer in Metro Detroit. 

What Michiganders Want: Investments in Children

A poll issued by The Skillman Foundation and Michigan’s Children found that Michigan residents want to prioritize investing in children. Across all geographies and demographics, voters expect their dollars to be put to work to help children lead healthy, productive lives. Matt Gillard, president and chief executive officer of Michigan’s Children, and Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, joined the Conference to present findings from a statewide poll and examine what it indicates for policymakers and child advocates, in a session hosted by The Skillman Foundation. Angelique Power, president and chief executive officer of The Skillman Foundation, moderated the discussion.

“Children are the barometer of our well-being and so if children are thriving, then we collectively, as a society, are thriving. And if children are suffering today then our collective tomorrows will be difficult,” said Powers.

The pandemic had a traumatic impact on society, particularly children. The data collected in the phone survey of 800 Michigan voters was targeted at discovering what Michiganders know about the impact on children and what they expect in terms of investment.

Added Powers, “Across the beautiful state of Michigan, across racial and ethnic lines, across geography and socio-economic stratospheres, there is a universality of a response to this poll that is very unique in this time of difference. There is a call and a mandate that we center children and their needs.”

The poll found that overall, Michiganders want more investment and expect more investment in children by their elected officials. In fact, over 58% of respondents expect more public investments in children across the state, even if it meant raising their own taxes.

“The general public gets it; the voters get it. They understand that to emerge from this pandemic is going to take significant investment in order for us to help those kids that were so tremendously impacted and still being impacted by the pandemic, as you see it today,” said Gillard.

In addition, the poll demonstrated that across every geographical area of the state, the results were similar in supporting increased investment.

“There’s not many issues where you will see, across the geographical spectrum of Michigan, support for one type of investment or one particular area of focus…this is going to be critically important,” Gillard said.

Top concerns outlined by the poll: 

  • Children falling behind in school due to the pandemic
  • Children living in households that struggle to afford basic needs
  • Exposure to trauma in homes and communities
  • Mental health of children
  • Not every child getting the learning support they need

“Out of school time learning opportunities are going to be critically important for us to be able to mitigate the damage that has been done educationally for a whole generation of children who have made it through this pandemic,” noted Gillard.

Where investments should be made: 

  • Career exposure, job training, and skill building
  • Programs to improve children’s mental health
  • Programs that reduce the number of youths in the criminal justice system
  • More affordable child care
  • Expanded learning time

In general, affordable child care has become a hot topic not only in the state, but around the country, demonstrated through increased federal support through pandemic relief bills.

“Child care is a critical component as our economy emerges from this, and we have really seen the business community, here in Michigan in particular, step up and start to lean on investments in child care,” said Gillard.

What does the future look like with more investment in children: 

  • Fewer children will experience abuse or neglect
  • Children will be better prepared for the workforce and a successful future
  • Michigan’s economy will improve
  • The number of youths in the juvenile justice system will decrease
  • Children’s mental health will improve
  • Economic and racial inequity will be reduced

Michigan Results Compared to National Results 

Compared to the national results, the Michigan results are quite similar. Voters really see children as an investment in the future, the economy and in the recovery from the pandemic.

One of the things that the poll demonstrated is stronger in Michigan than nationally is the equality and equity frame.

“Michigan really wants to provide opportunity to every child and that really unites rural Michigan and Detroit, suburban Michigan and Grand Rapids. It’s really a unifying theme across the state,” said Lake.

In addition, there is strong consensus in Michigan that not enough is being done to support children, especially post-pandemic. There is real intensity behind three forces:

  1. Children and youth falling behind because of COVID-19 learning losses
  2. Inadequate help for kids suffering from mental health problems
  3. Helping children and youth that live in households that are struggling to afford basic needs

What Next? 

While the purpose of the poll was to understand where voters are and how they feel about current and future investments in children, it is not the “what” that it is important, it’s the “how.” The path forward will be the difficult part, but the similarity in responses across demographic areas is encouraging.

“We haven’t had data or a consensus of opinion statewide around these issues to fight back on that, to say no we have to figure this out, so it works for everybody. And that’s where I hope we can build from this survey and build from this conversation,” said Gillard.

The Pandemic and Parks: Lessons COVID-19 Reinforced About the Value of Public Spaces and Outdoor Recreation

When a global pandemic kept people home from their offices, schools, businesses, and vacations, millions of Michiganders “re-discovered” their public parks, where they could safely hang with friends and family and decompress. This increased attendance underscores the need for increased investment and staffing solutions.

“The true value of public parks is a lesson that must outlast the pandemic to ensure that these resources and the significant value they bring to us intrinsically and economically last for generations to come,” said Amy McMillan, director of Huron-Clinton Metroparks.

McMillan was joined by fellow panelists Alicia Bradford, parks director for the Office of the Wayne County Executive, and Dan Eichinger, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in a conversation moderated by the City of Detroit’s and WWJ Newsradio 950’s Vickie Thomas.

Managing Increased Attendance

Thomas aptly described the state’s parks and public as “our saving graces” throughout the pandemic when so many were seeking a way to escape and connect safely. This is evidenced by significant increases in attendance at parks across the state and participation in outdoor recreation activities like golfing, camping, biking, and boating.

Despite experiencing declining rates over several years, McMillan shared that attendance increased by 35%. Bradford noted similar increases in Wayne County’s parks – around 25-30%. Eichinger also shared how these increases impacted a key milestone for the state; though the state usually reaches its one millionth camp night in October, it was able to reach that benchmark by August this year.

Staffing, Infrastructure Maintenance Remain a Challenges

Despite the positive impacts of the increased attendance driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, the rapid influx posed both challenges and opportunities for improving spaces and services. Just as with the broader business community, staffing and labor shortages continue to be an issue for the state’s parks and public spaces.

Bradford cited particular difficulties with staffing maintenance workers in Wayne County. Competition with other industries and businesses offering signing bonuses and new benefits has proven difficult, especially for these entities that have restricted government funding.

Further, this uptick in traffic to local outdoor spaces has taken a toll on physical infrastructure, exacerbating existing needs for targeting investment and updates.

“There are a lot of facilities that were brand spanking new in the 1950s and the 1960s, and we’re still kind of coasting on the fumes of those investments,” Eichinger said. “There’s a lot of work for us to do, I think, in you know, trying to build up a contemporary system that is relatively easy for us to manage, that the facilities are in good condition, where it’s relatively easier for us to recruit and retain employees.”

What’s Needed Next

Though these challenges remain, they go to show just how essential these outdoor resources are for Michigan’s residents and their physical, mental, and economic health. These spaces should be treated as priorities in terms of strategic investment and funding. In the meantime, leaders are exploring innovative ways to update and optimize visitors’ experiences.

McMillan, for instance, shared how Metroparks is using allocated funds to focus on updating trails and improving accessibility.

Bradford noted a trend of visitors requesting WiFi in certain areas of their parks where they have been working remotely, and although they encourage people to use the parks to enjoy and disconnect, her team is receptive to their visitors’ needs.

“We’ve been tapped on to look at putting in electric vehicle charging stations,” Bradford said. “And then just really opening up and engaging our waterways and promoting those even more.”

Eichinger also acknowledged the state’s responsibility to increase its efforts in urban and underserved areas as an essential step toward the successful, inclusive future of these valued spaces.

“I would like to see us be a lot more intentional about being present and active in urban communities providing outdoor recreation services,” he said.

Thank you to Huron-Clinton Metroparks for hosting this session.

Plagues Have Playbooks: Nicholas Christakis on the Enduring Impact of COVID-19

By James Martinez

In early 2020, Dr. Nicholas Christakis knew the COVID-19 virus deserved serious attention. The Yale professor had been collaborating with Chinese scientists for several years using cell phone data to study human interactions. Tracking data from the movements of 11 million people, he and others were able to predict the timing, intensity and location of the pandemic early on throughout China.

Growing more concerned, he sounded the alarm about the risks of public transmission in the U.S. by tweeting basic epidemiology information.

“To my amazement many of these threads went viral and gave me the idea that there was a lot of hunger out there for such information,” said Christakis.

The experience prompted the best-selling author, physician and sociologist to write “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live.” Starting in March 2020, he completed the book in just four months.

One of the overarching themes of the book is that challenges and responses during times of pandemic, both good and bad, are timeless dating back to ancient times despite modern society’s technological and medical advances.

“(We) think that this experience we’re having is so alien and not natural, but it’s not. Plagues are not new to our species, they’re just new to us. We think it’s crazy what’s happening. But our ancestors have been confronting plagues for thousands of years,” said Christakis. “And in fact, this plague is not as bad as some of the plagues that our ancestors had to deal with, but it is nevertheless following a playbook.”

That playbook is comprised of responses and factors such as fear, denial, superstition, the rapid spread of misinformation, and the undermining of science and health experts, which have long accompanied the spread of germs, according to Christakis.

Those elements of the pandemic wreaked havoc on early mitigation efforts and continue to undermine vaccination efforts. This has provided the paradox of the United States’ ability to develop and administer highly effective vaccines in record time, but inability to convince many people to get vaccinated.

“The problem is most Americans have not personally experienced serious epidemics. And so although it’s in our historical memory, and we have medical historians and epidemiologists and other experts in our society who can understand this situation, the citizen on the street doesn’t have that personal experience, so we took it lightly.”

ON THE CONTINUUM OF PLAGUES – COVID-19 COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE 

As bad and tragic as the current pandemic has been and continues to be, Christakis points out that the lethality of pathogens varies and COVID-19 was not as deadly as smallpox or cholera.

In other words, when we are beyond it, things likely could have been worse, and perhaps the next one will be.

“I want people to understand the reality of the situation,” said Christakis.  “This is why for decades, the CIA and the White House, and other organs of government have rightly seen pandemics as national security threats. They are a threat to our way of life. Just as much as we might fear human enemies, we should fear viral enemies. They could destroy our way of life.”

PREPARED FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC? IT MAY BE A MATTER OF TIMING 

For Christakis, the level of preparedness for the next pandemic will largely come down to timing. If too long passes before the next serious pandemic, people may have collectively forgotten or downplayed the hardships and lessons presented by COVID-19.

“I fear that if the next one comes more than 30 years from now, everything will happen again. We’ll make the same mistakes again,” said Christakis. •

James Martinez is a freelance writer and content creation consultant in Metro Detroit. 

Polarization in Politics: Political Veterans Weigh in on Democracy and the Road to Bipartisanship

With national politics as polarized as ever, the health of democracy is drawing increased attention as the Mackinac Policy Conference again brings national thought-leaders to Michigan’s Center Stage. This year includes former United States National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, who served under President Trump, and former chairman of the Republican National Committee and MSNBC Political Analyst Michael Steele. They answered questions from the Detroiter prior to the Conference.

In your opinion, what is the overall health of the U.S. democracy today? 

ROBERT C. O’BRIEN: Our democracy is strong and resilient. We have been through many turbulent times since our founding, including a fragile start to the nation under the Articles of Confederation, a Civil War, World Wars, the Great Depression and the 1960s. Recent events in America have been trying but the genius of the Founders and the strength of the Constitution have been proven over and over again. American democracy will persevere through the current polarized political climate. I like to tell people to “never bet against the United States.”

MICHAEL STEELE: Democracy is only as healthy as her people; and I would say we’re not feeling too well at the moment. When the people stop believing in the promise of America; when they find solace in conspiracies and lies, demagogues, and

weak leadership there is a sickness which is more profound than we may realize and it affects all of us. Recovery comes when we demonstrate we are willing to hold ourselves and each other accountable – first for the sickness, and then for how we recover as one people.

Given the internal push and pull to the left and right in both parties, what do you think about the sustainability of the two-party system? 

RO: The two-party system in America is entrenched and durable. We do not have proportional representation in our Congress like most Europeans or the Israelis do, so the likelihood of a Green Party or far right party emerging and making an impact in Congress is small. There have been viable third-party presidential contenders in the past such as Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose comeback attempt or Ross Perot’s two runs in the 90s, but those movements did not out last their charismatic leaders.

MS: The current state of the two-party system is unstable at best; certainly, it is changing as the priorities of both parties are shifting closer to the political extremes. We have witnessed both parties deconstruct democratic principles through vacuous soundbites, fundraising off crass behavior and rhetoric, appeals to tribalism and no accountability. Now we know why many of the Founders were less than enthusiastic about the formation of political“factions”.

Is there a path to a more bipartisan political climate in the U.S., if so, how do we get there? 

RO: We need to return to being friends with each other. The idea that friends or families would split over politics is very sad. We must emphasize our American identity before we move on to our political identity. When I was an 18-year-old intern at the RNC in Washington, the first call I received on the job was from my Democratic hometown Congressman, Doug Bosco. He welcomed me to DC and invited me to attend all of his office’s intern program events. I have never forgotten Doug’s kindness. We need more of that type of reaching across the aisle today.

MS: We will get on the path to bipartisanship when we decide that “bipartisanship” is not a dirty word. Until we not only recognize its value to the body politic but are willing to use its tools as a legitimate means of governing ourselves, we will continue to find ourselves mired in a cesspool of lackluster leadership, poor results, and just bad politics.

Designing Detroit’s Future

Duggan Administration Energized as it Eyes Third Term

By Karen Dybis

As Detroit’s mayor, Mike Duggan keeps his core values front and center: He wants Detroiters to have access to jobs, affordable housing, health care and, over the last 18 months, a sense that a pandemic-besieged city can come out on the other side.

Mayor Duggan, who is seeking his third term this November, is a favorite speaker at Mackinac Policy Conference. In a question-and-answer interview, he talks about getting back to in-person meetings, boosting jobs and job skills for Detroiters, and how he hopes to create equity across all parts of the city.

Is there a renewed energy among your team to get work done in Detroit? 

There’s no doubt about it. We have $826 million in the American Rescue Plan where we had to make decisions and get (proposed spending) approved by City Council. We held 60 community meetings in basically 30 days. Everybody was energized. Everyone was hosting meetings, half in person, half on Zoom. We successfully got the plan through City Council in June. It wasn’t just people came back to work to come back to work. They came back to work with the opportunity to design the city’s future.

The past year has had many challenges, including issues related to equity and inclusion. How have you handled that?  

There were more than 200,000 who left Detroit in the decade before I got elected. The folks who stayed wanted to make sure that they benefitted from staying, and I think we’ve seen it. Property values have gone up. The unemployment rate is way down. We’ve done things like the Chrysler Jeep plant, where the first 3,000 people they hired were all Detroiters. It’s core to what we’re doing as an administration – we’re creating a city that benefits the people that stayed.

Karen Dybis is a freelance writer in Metro Detroit.

Tune In: Mackinac Policy Conference Preview and Live Coverage

The iconic “Mackinac Policy Conference” will take place September 20 – 23, 2021 and will spotlight three pillars for cultivating a healthy Michigan – with focus to accelerate COVID-19 economic recovery, advance racial equity, and invest in the health of people and communities.

This year marks DPTV’s 11th year of coverage as we provide viewers with access to nearly all of the Conference’s sessions live and make them available for on-demand viewing.

A healthy Michigan also depends on good quality jobs. Kicking off in Mackinac, One Detroit will launch its year-long initiative, The Future of Work. As part of the conference, “One Detroit” anchor Christy McDonald will interview Walgreen’s CEO, Rosalind Brewer about women in leadership. Throughout the week, McDonald, will continue to interview local and national decision-makers on issues that impact viewers’ lives and community including the future of the auto industry, DEI in the workforce, and the healthcare industry.

Featured presenters include CNN Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley; Rosalind Brewer, CEO of Walgreens; Michael Steele, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee; Mayor of Detroit Mike Duggan; Governor Gretchen Whitmer; and more.

View the original article.

Carrying on the Levin Legacy

The Levin Center Promotes Bipartisan, Fact-Based Governing
By James Martinez

Senator Carl Levin’s brand of public service focused on integrity, candor and bipartisanship, and he placed a premium on Congress’ responsibility to provide public and private sector oversight that put people first.

“I do believe that a politician has an obligation to identify injustice and try to eliminate or at least minimize it. And I do believe that politicians can write laws that will improve the lives of the people they seek to serve. And that is what I tried to do,” wrote the senator in his recent memoir.

Throughout his 36-year career in Washington, Senator Levin held key leadership positions on committees that led dozens of major investigations ranging from Enron to unethical practices in the finance industry to the 2008 financial crisis. He did not shy away from the difficult conversations and remained determined to bring accountability and thoughtful policy solutions to government.

That legacy is carried on today by the Levin Center at Wayne Law School, which focuses on promoting fact-based, bipartisan oversight by Congress and the 50 state legislatures. It also encourages civil dialogue on major public policy issues.

“We all have a responsibility to maintaining a fact-based public square without which our democracy can’t function and we can’t tackle major problems such as vaccines, climate change, and infrastructure,” said Jim Townsend, director of the Levin Center and a former state representative. “So, our focus on bipartisan, fact-based oversight is about raising the quality of legislative fact-finding and pushing to make lawmakers accountable for upholding basic norms of truthfulness and integrity.”

The Center, where the late Senator taught and shared his insights and experiences with students, offers academic coursework, training programs, symposia, and research. Its programming is designed to encourage future and current leaders to embrace their role in promoting honest and open government, maintaining the public trust, and holding public and private institutions accountable to high ethical and transparency standards.

“Bipartisan fact-finding, bipartisan investigations tend to be more thorough and in-depth,” said Townsend. “We have found that lawmakers and staff raise their game in an investigation when both parties have a significant role and bring their own perspectives to the work, rather than having a single-party echo chamber that begins the inquiry with a foregone conclusion.”

Upon Levin’s retirement in January 2015, Wayne State University and the Wayne Law School along with supporters, friends, and former staff established the Center, which includes bipartisan advisory board and staff. In his memoir, the Senator credited Elise Bean, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Eugene Driker, and Linda Gustitus with leading efforts to create the center.

Expect the Unexpected

GM’s Mark Reuss Looks to a Sustainable Post-Pandemic Future
By Paul Eisenstein

It began almost imperceptibly, as workers along the line began falling ill. Within weeks, it soon was apparent, COVID had come to America and, like much of the country, the auto industry needed to respond with drastic measures. Workers were sent home. Factories shut down, and a downturn to rival the Great Recession seemed inevitable.

Despite the dire forecasts, the auto industry has pulled through much better than expected. If anything, manufacturers have used the crisis to make massive changes impacting everything from the way factories operate to the way vehicles are sold. And there are more changes to come, President Joe Biden recently signed an executive order accelerating the shift from internal combustion engines to battery power.

At General Motors, President Mark Reuss is a key player in the company’s response to COVID, as well as its push into electrification. The comparison to GM’s role in World War II, as part of the “Arsenal of Democracy,” is “an opt one,” Reuss said. Not only did GM have to set in place protocols for reopening its factories, it also began the “Herculean task” of rolling out the ventilators and masks desperately needed to fight the pandemic.

“And through it all, we never wavered from our commitment to EVs and realigning our product portfolio. In fact, we doubled down,” said Reuss. Just weeks before the March 2020 industry shutdown, CEO Mary Barra announced GM would invest $20 billion in its electrified and autonomous vehicle program. That figure now stands at $35 billion.

“We view electric vehicles as a growth business, and believe the best way General Motors can keep the recovery going is by doing exactly what we’re doing – leading the charge toward an all-electric future by launching new EVs, pushing for EV adoption and infrastructure installation and keeping Americans employed by the tens of thousands,” said Reuss.

This means a continued emphasis on “sustainability.” That has numerous interpretations, including long-term profitability but, “For the purposes of Mackinac, “the way to look at sustainability is in the context of helping the planet and fighting climate change,” said Reuss – who believes the shift to EVs “will happen more quickly than most people can imagine.”

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES CREATED BY PANDEMIC 

GM’s goal is to eliminate sales of vehicles using internal combustion engines by 2035. For now, however, the company has more immediate challenges, including disruptions from the ongoing pandemic. “This is an insidious virus with multiple variants and it’s not going to go away on its own,” said Reuss.

The automaker nearly had to cut production at a plant in Missouri due to a shortage of manpower in July. And that highlights the challenge it – like much of America – faces hiring new workers.

GM, he said, is in “hiring mode,” adding social media to traditional recruiting means, and reaching out through “friends and families (of) our current team.” The good news is that the focus on a high-tech future is helping GM – and its competitors – win the sort of talent that, for many years, steered clear of the auto industry.

One of the biggest challenges stemming from the pandemic has been the shortage of semiconductor chips. According to a study by AlixPartners, the industry will take at least a $110 billion hit due to lost production and sales. While GM had to trim production of some truck models like the highly profitable Chevrolet Silverado in July, it’s fared better than many rivals.

“The chip shortage has really reinforced the creativity and agility of our teams to manage just about any issue,” Reuss said. “We plan for all kinds of scenarios, and I think anybody who looks at our balance sheet would have to say we are weathering the storms pretty well.”

EXCEEDING WALL STREET’S EXPECTATIONS 

Despite production cuts and slim inventories, the automaker delivered a net profit of $2.8 billion for Q2, handily exceeding Wall Street expectations.

“It sounds cliché to say, ‘Expect the unexpected.’ But what else could be the lesson of the last year or two? And who knows what’s going to be next? You can’t just sit around and wait for the locusts to roll in,” said Reuss. “You have to plan proactively and resolve to react quickly and decisively, to anything.”

Paul Eisenstein is publisher and editor-in-chief of automotive news site TheDetroitBureau.com.

A Lesson in Civility: Sen. Carl Levin at the 2018 Detroit Policy Conference

With former Senator Carl Levin as the honorary chairperson, the 2018 Detroit Policy Conference focused on how to create a culture of civility. In a 32-minute conversation with WDIV-TV anchor Devin Scillian, Levin shared his observations on national politics and how the Senate can force compromise to advance policy that moves the country forward.

Included here are a few excerpts, edited for length and clarity.

THE “STENNIS RULE” 

“(Sen. John Stennis) taught me to always give the other fellow some ground to stand on, even if you have the votes and don’t need to give him the ground – do it any way. He’ll be there to respect you one day. And it’s a better way to live, it’s a better way to work, and it’s a better way to get things done.”

CIVILITY HELPS GET THINGS DONE 

“If you are going to be in public office and hope to get things done that can get done and must get done, like (passing) a budget, you have to figure out a way to work together … Civility contributes to working together.”

IGNORING INCIVILITY AND ATTACKS 

“One of the real ways to produce incivility is to attack people’s motives, to assume the other person has bad motives, instead of assuming they have good motives. You may disagree totally with them, and if they personally attack you, civility requires you to ignore it and not engage in any kind of personal attacks.”

GOVERNING THROUGH COMPROMISE 

“If you’re not there (in Washington) to compromise, you’re not there to govern.”

BIPARTISAN FACT-FINDING 

“If you treat people in a civil way and mean it – and don’t attribute bad motives to other folks that you’re working with or have differences with – civility can lead to and probably is essential to leading a bipartisan approach to a factual investigation. If there’s a lack of civility, then it is less likely you are going to be able to do some things together which are critically important.”