Just a day before the U.S. House of Representatives unveils its federal budget proposal, a local congressman lobbied against Republican initiatives to cut social programs at a retirement home in downtown Madison Monday.
U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, emphasized the need to replace the “arbitrary” spending cuts made by the sequester with a balanced budget that would not slash funding to social programs such as Medicare and Social Security. He spoke to a group of approximately 25 at the City of Madison Senior Center on Mifflin Street.
Pocan said he blamed House Republicans for causing the sequester through a stubborn refusal to raise revenues.
“We’re trying to have a more logical approach that’s a more balanced approach,” Pocan said. “But right now, until the House Republicans will sit down at the table with us, we’ve got this really terrible plan in place.”
Pocan told seniors stimulus spending by the Democrats did not cause the 2008 national recession but rather the housing crisis and downfall of banks dug the federal government into “the hole” from which it is currently working to escape.
Pocan said he will fight to prevent the Republicans from implementing a budget that could have “devastating impacts” on programs that he said matter to seniors and other vulnerable populations of Americans.
“At the end of the day, my hope is we’ll realize that we need to raise revenues as well as make cuts but not on the backs of those who can least afford it,” Pocan said. “I think seniors who are receiving Social Security or Medicare are those who can least afford it.”
Regarding the effects of the sequester, Pocan said the spending cuts would have an increasing effect in slowing economic growth while they remain in place.
He said as furloughs set in for meat inspectors, for example, a single inspector missing a day of work could mean the whole meat company cannot open for the day. Pocan added if this happened and an inspector missed a day of work, it would cause 800 Madison workers to not work for a day, damaging the economy.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, leads the House Budget Committee, which will reveal its new budget plan Tuesday. He told the Associated Press he welcomes President Barack Obama’s willingness to engage with Congress and work out out a deal.
“I hope that this is sincere,” Ryan said. “We had a very good, frank exchange. But the proof will be in the coming weeks as to whether or not it’s a real, sincere outreach to find common ground.”
Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, said he supported Pocan’s efforts to ensure health security and access to affordable care for Medicare-age Americans.
However, Kraig also criticized Ryan’s health care pension program.
“As a country, we learned over half a century ago that private for-profit health insurance does not work for seniors, yet Ryan is determined to repeat the life-threatening mistakes of the past,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.