We can — and we must — develop a credible deficit reduction plan that is comprehensive and considers all options. A credible budget plan, however, does not hurt the weakest, most vulnerable Americans.
Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has passed a budget plan developed by Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that I believe does just that by turning Medicare into a voucher program and Medicaid into a block grant program to the states. Congressman Ryan also has called for reducing the marginal tax rate for millionaires while taxing middle-income Americans at the same rate as the richest Americans.
I believe Congressman Ryan’s plan will do little to reduce our deficit and will result in a dwindling tax base. I also believe his proposal – in the end – will ultimately kill Medicare and Medicaid, two of the most important programs in our nation’s history. A credible plan must put all spending – including defense, discretionary and mandatory – on the table, along with genuine tax reform that raises additional revenues by closing loopholes and simplifying the tax code.
As we evaluate the Ryan budget plan, we must remember that Medicare, along with Social Security, helped create the middle class of the 20th Century. Congress created Medicare in 1965 because most seniors were unable to purchase health insurance at any price. Today, 185,700 Maryland seniors and people with disabilities rely on Medicare and Medicaid for their health care needs, including nursing home care. To attack such successful programs is to try and undo the progress we have made in creating the largest, most secure middle class in the world. It also risks putting seniors at the mercy of private insurance companies.
I will fight to make sure Medicare remains a guaranteed benefit for seniors and the disabled so that they can continue to have access to health care. I also will fight any plan to block grant Medicaid, a program for our nation’s most vulnerable Americans, including those who depend on it for nursing home care. I believe that if we turn Medicaid into a block grant, it will ultimately cease to exist.
We have a real opportunity with the FY 2012 budget to chart a more responsible fiscal path for our nation. But we must do it in a way that preserves important programs that American families depend upon and that invests in our nation’s future. President Obama is right when he says we must “out educate, out build and out compete” if our nation is to remain a world leader in the 21st Century.