Friday, April 22, 2011

Photos and Reaction to Democratic Press Conference on GOP's Budget

After the GOP budget passed last week, several Democratic members of the House Budget Committee came out to speak to the press. Although even some of the speakers highlighted how this budget is dead on arrival in the Senate, they wanted to take a moment to highlight some of the extreme measures that can be found in the Republican budget. It’s worth noting that Rep. Chris Van Hollen focused on how debate isn’t about “whether or not we should work together on reducing our deficits and the debt, but how we do that.” This important because the extreme measures in the GOP budget are why he also said the Democrats “believe the Republican budget makes the wrong choice for America.”

Quickly turning to why he thought the GOP budget was the “wrong choice,” Van Hollen highlighted how it would hurt the fragile economic recovery by keeping tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires at the same time that it would slash investments in education and force seniors to be at the whims of the private insurance industry by ending the medicare guarantee. The Democrats on the budget committee aren’t the only ones who spoke out about the harmful cuts to medicare.

Gerry Connolly expressed many of the same ideas of those at the press conference by saying that he “could not support the Republican majority’s draconian budget plan that would destroy the Medicare program and break faith with our seniors.” He then added that “denying and rationing medical care for seniors, increasing out-of-pocket costs for medical services and prescription drugs, and putting the fate of our seniors in the hands of the private insurance companies do not represent my values or the values of most Virginians or Americans.”

The Democrats also quickly highlighted how the Republicans are having some difficulty trying to defend their budget. Rep. John Yarmuth, for instance, claimed the GOP’s proposal wasn’t “a reality based budget” and that their argument that tax cuts to the rich would spur growth is a myth that only the Heritage Foundation would support. There was also the myth the cuts wouldn’t impact anyone over the age of 55. As Rep. Kathy Castor pointed out, this is simply incorrect because medicare providers won’t have much incentive to stay in the program if they know it’s going to be ending soon. When you combine this with the fact that there are going to be major cuts to nursing homes, this could make it extremely difficult for seniors to get the care that they need.

In a sign of how some of the false arguments that the GOP used during the debate, Van Hollen also drew attention to one argument that also illustrated the hypocrisy of some GOP leaders. During the early stages of the debate, some of the Republicans claimed they were essentially turning medicare into a program that resembles what Members of Congress receive. This is simply untrue because Members of Congress receive what’s called a fair share payment, which covers a certain percentage of their health care coverage. This means their payment is directly proportional to the overall cost of their coverage. In other words, their costs won’t skyrocket if the costs of health care increases. With the way the GOP budget is set up, that wouldn’t happen with the medicare program because seniors would just receive a flat payment amount. As a result, seniors would have to pay more for health care on a limited income if the private insurance companies decide they want more profits.

Van Hollen pointed out that this is rather hypocritical because it’s asking seniors to be at the whims of private insurance companies while Members of Congress aren’t going to worry about increasing costs. On top of that, they’re giving some of their corporate and wealthy allies a big break by refusing to restore the tax rates to what they were during the Clinton era – a time when we had balanced budgets and a strong economy. And that is why the Democrats are correct in pointing out that the GOP budget is “the wrong choice for America.”

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