Ackerman, McCarthy use budget scare tactics

Ackerman, McCarthy use budget scare tactics

Fear-mongering and inaccurate are the best terms to describe Congresspersons Gary Ackerman and Carolyn McCarthy’s articles in the Great Neck News last week (April 22, 2011).

First, Congressman Ackerman’s article portrayed President Obama as too willing to compromise “progressive” principles up until April 13, when Obama fiercely rejected the Republican budget.

The truth is that Obama has only “compromised” when he had no other choice. For the most part, President Obama has pursued his leftist, tax-and-spend and pro-Palestinian agendas with a vengeance.

For instance, despite the fact that the majority of the American public opposed his health care bill, President Obama persisted in ramming it through Congress. And despite the fact that the health care law’s enactment has resulted in increased health insurance premiums and company layoffs, and reductions in retirement benefits, Obama has remained on the same misadvised course.

Obama’s first actions in office included an executive order to spend $20.4 million of our tax dollars to relocate to American individuals living in Gaza (who are in all likelihood Hamas-connected), sending hundreds of millions of our tax dollars to Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, partially lifting the sanctions on Syria to sell Syria airplane parts (hmm, I wonder what those will be used for?), condemning the building of Jewish homes in Jerusalem, and reversing the long-standing U.S. policy and U.S. commitments that Israeli settlements are legitimate and legal.

Where’s the compromise in that? And even when President Obama “compromises,” he makes certain that the “compromise” is short-lived.

For instance, the compromise tax bill last fall (which increased unemployment benefits) only extended the Bush tax rates for everyone for two years. Obama quickly announced that he intends to raise tax rates (on the not-so-wealthy so-called wealthy) at the end of this two-year stay of execution, and Obama is now seeking the immediate elimination of long-standing legitimate personal tax deductions.

Second, Congressman Ackerman’s article portrayed President Obama as the savior of Medicare and senior citizens – and both Ackerman and Congresswoman McCarthy condemned the House Republican budget’s proposed “premium support” approach to Medicare.

In fact, Obama’s health care law, passed by the Democratic Congress last year, will likely destroy Medicare. The health care law is “financed” by a combination of new taxes and cutting $500 billion out of Medicare over the next decade. Under the health care law, a 15-member Independent Payment Advisory Board, or IPAB, must cut Medicare spending below certain annual caps, and virtually the only option for doing so is to cut Medicare reimbursement rates.

According to Medicare’s chief actuary, reimbursements will be driven down to below providers’ costs. As a result, 15 percent of the nation’s hospitals are expected to drop out of Medicare by the end of the decade (not to mention the thousands of physicians expected to drop out of the program), leaving seniors without care.

Third, Congressman Ackerman praised President Obama’s address regarding the budget as “standing up for fundamental fairness” and putting the government on a “sound financial footing.” But does it really? Congressman Ackerman did not mention what President Obama actually said during the President’s April 13, 2011 address.

Obama’s proposed “solutions” for putting America on a “sound financial footing” are to continue to spend more and more on government programs, cut Medicare even further, cut defense further in an era of national danger (in addition to the $400 billion of defense spending cuts already found by Secretary of Defense Gates), and, surprise, surprise, increase taxes, particularly on those who provide the most jobs.

Here are a few choice excerpts from Obama’s April 13 speech: Obama’s plan to increase spending: “We will invest in medical research. We will invest in clean energy technology. We will invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education. We will invest in job training. . . .” (“Invest” is Obama/Orwell-speak for “spend.”)

Obama’s plan to cut Medicare: “And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending. . . .” (The “independent commission” that Obama referred to is the one that is already charged by the health care law with cutting $500 billion from Medicare over the next decade. Obama’s speech seems to indicate that even more will be cut.)

Obama’s April 13 remarks on raising taxes included: “The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code, so-called tax expenditures. . . . [T]he tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions [such as mortgage and charitable deductions].” (“Tax expenditures” and “spending in the tax code” are Obama/Orwell-speak for “whatever money the government has not taxed away from people yet.”)

Obama also complained during his speech that high earners “benefit” more from charitable deductions than lower-income individuals.

Perhaps that’s because high earners pay more taxes and give more charity? Obama’s proposed solution to this “disparity” was to eliminate tax deductions for charitable and mortgage deductions for “the top 2 percent” (likely meaning persons earning over $200,000).

Charities – many of which do a far better job serving the poor and educational needs than the government does – would be decimated by such a change in the tax code. (Obama previously attempted to reduce charitable deductions for this group; now he wants to eliminate the deduction entirely.) Home prices would also be devastated up and down the line.

Congressman Ackerman’s article also left the misleading impression that the recent Republican budget eliminated Social Security in favor of privatization. In fact, the Republican budget which passed in the House (and which everyone expects will die in the Democratic-controlled Senate) made no changes to Social Security. Moreover, Republican Paul Ryan’s recent proposal to fix Social Security merely envisioned leaving benefits the same for those over age 55, and a non-mandatory option for those under 55 to put part of their Social Security taxes into a government-guaranteed private account with a higher rate of return than Social Security offers.

Moreover, Obama’s April 13 speech and both Democratic Congresspersons’ articles were extremely misleading regarding the Medicare and Medicaid provisions of the Republican budget.

For instance, the Republican budget merely replaced federal Medicaid “matching” payments to the states with federal block grants to the states.

This leaves it up to the states how the states will spend Medicaid dollars, and invites efficiencies and innovation. Obama’s claims that “poor children,” “children with autism” or “kids with disabilities” would be left “to fend for themselves” and Congresspersons’ Ackerman and McCarthy’s similar claims are simply untrue.

The Republican budget does not say that states no longer need to cover poor, autistic or disabled individuals. Instead, the block grants concept (if ever implemented) would simply give states the flexibility to tailor their Medicaid programs to their specific populations. Similarly, the proposed shift to support payments for Medicare in 2022 is aimed at enabling seniors to obtain efficient health-care coverage.

Our country faces severe debt and spending problems. President Obama acknowledged in his April 13 speech that: “Around two-thirds of our budget — two-thirds — is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Two-thirds. . . . [A]ny serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget.” (The overwhelming majority of this two-thirds is for the first three items.) It is widely acknowledged that if nothing is done to fix the entitlement programs which subsume the majority of our budget, those programs and our entire government will go bankrupt.

Although Congressman Ackerman stated in his article that he is against compromise, we will need to work together to tackle our extraordinarily challenging debt and spending crises. This is especially true in this era of a “progressive” Democratic president and Senate and a Republican-controlled House.

If, instead of working together, our “progressive” President and Congresspersons spend their time fear mongering and misleadingly attacking well-intentioned, constructive Republican proposals, we’ll never accomplish anything.

Elizabeth (Liz) Berney

Great Neck


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