By Ron Barber
As I listen to voters in Arizona's eighth congressional district ahead of the upcoming special election, one thing is crystal clear: Seniors depend on the Medicare benefits they have earned and Medicare is important to younger Americans' long-term economic security.
In recent years, we've seen America's middle class shrink -- I've talked to families throughout Southern Arizona who feel the constant pressure to work harder than ever before to keep their heads above water. But it is our seniors, who live on fixed incomes, who are particularly vulnerable to falling out of the middle class. Now more than ever, we must keep our promise to seniors -- and not further jeopardize their financial well-being and health.
Unfortunately, Congress has decided to break America's promise to seniors. On March 29, the House of Representatives voted again to end the Medicare guarantee and raise health care costs for seniors. I will fight this approach when I get to Congress. We need to cut spending and reduce the deficit, but balancing the budget on the backs of seniors is wrong.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has warned that the Congress' budget, which my opponents support, "is likely to simply increase costs for beneficiaries while removing Medicare's promise of secure health coverage." The Brookings Tax Policy Center determined that this budget would give people making over $1 million per year a $394,000 tax cut.
Budgets should reflect our values and this controversial Congressional budget does not reflect the priorities of Arizonans. Arizona seniors have earned Medicare benefits through a lifetime of work and contributions.
Medicare is a trust with our seniors that must not be broken. Especially in these challenging times, we must protect the Medicare guarantee. It's an insult to ask seniors who have worked hard their entire lives and paid to earn Medicare services to be the first to sacrifice.
I am committed to reducing the deficit the right way and I have made four promises to Arizona families and seniors when it comes to Medicare:
First, I will not support massive cuts in Medicare benefits.
Second, I will not support making Medicare a voluntary program.
Third, I will not support a Medicare program that requires seniors to buy private insurance.
Fourth, I will not force seniors to bear the burden of fixing the deficit.
No matter who emerges from the Republican primary in this special election, they will almost certainly share the wrong priorities of current House leadership, including a willingness to dismantle Medicare and put further pressure on our middle class. I have called on each of them to renounce the budget that decimates Medicare but not one of them has responded.
I worked for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords for over five years as her district director and implemented her priority to support seniors and protect Medicare.
I want to represent the people of Arizona's 8th congressional district to make sure that our national policies are moving us forward--strengthening Medicare, improving our economy, and ensuring that Social Security will be around for future generations. I will fight on behalf of seniors and families, and emphasize results -- not partisan bickering. I am committed to standing up for the people in Southern Arizona who would be hurt by the wrong priorities in Washington
It starts with fighting for Arizona's middle class and seniors and a pledge to protect and improve Medicare. We need to rebuild and strengthen the middle class, and this includes seniors who are in danger of falling out of the middle class if Medicare is devastated by the wrong policies.