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Sen. John Ensign touches on economy, Yucca in visit to Las Vegas high school


Paul Takahashi

Sen. John Ensign draws a graph as he gives a lecture to West Prep High School students on the economic challenges facing the nation on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010.

Sen. John Ensign lectures West Prep High School Students

Sen. John Ensign (R) tours West Prep High School with Principal Mike Barton on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. Launch slideshow »

Map of West Prep Academy

West Prep Academy

2050 Saphire Stone Ave., Las Vegas

Monday was no ordinary school day for 25 students in Tammy Hadlock’s Advanced Placement government class.

Nevada Sen. John Ensign visited West Preparatory High School to give a lecture to juniors and seniors in Hadlock’s class.

Ensign spent the bulk of his 45-minute lecture at the school, near the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard, talking about the economic challenges facing the country.

“We’re in a tough economic time right now,” Ensign, a Republican, said. “Nevada used to be the envy of the nation. We led the nation in a lot of things.”

The state tops the nation in rates of unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies, Ensign said, adding that he believes the federal government caused the recent recession.

“The government created the housing bubble,” he said. “One thing about bubbles is that 100 percent of the time, it bursts. Because we led the housing bubble, it (the recession) was more severe for us,” he said.

Ensign went beyond American politics during his talk, touching upon the European Union’s bailout of Greece and Japan’s “Lost Decade” of economic stagnation to illustrate why he believes increasing government spending is not the answer to the nation’s economic woes. Ensign, instead, argued for more tax cuts and slashing the interest rate to stimulate the economy.

“Our national debt is $13.5 trillion. You just can’t understand that number,” Ensign said. “And guess who has to pay that back? Do you all have a mirror?”

After his lecture, the senator answered students’ questions about defense spending, immigration and nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain.

“I was excited,” said Abraham Felix, a 17-year-old senior. “I couldn’t believe the senator came. It shows our school has improved a lot since I came here in seventh grade.”

Five years ago, West Prep, 2050 Saphire Stone Ave., had one of the worst reputations in the Clark County School District in terms of school performance and safety. Principal Mike Barton said he appreciated the senator’s efforts to help turn around the school. Ensign attended West Prep’s high school graduation last year, and praised the school for sending off 43 college-bound seniors.

“Ensign’s a big supporter of our school,” Barton said. “Our school can often feel forgotten, but he (Ensign) always keeps in touch.”

“It was an awesome experience for the kids and myself,” Hadlock said. “To take the time to come in when I’m the only one eligible to vote… Senator Ensign did a phenomenal job answering the kids’ questions in a pretty straightforward manner.”

Students at West Prep seemed to agree.

“I felt empowered because I don’t get the opportunity to speak to my senator every day,” said Juan Gonzalez, a 17-year-old junior. “It made me feel like an empowered American. That I had a voice.”

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