By Shaun Zinck
Republicans plan to balance the budget "on the backs of the middle class," said U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, during a rally held at Blackhawk Technical College's central campus.
The rally was sponsored by The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) and Every Child Matters. Both are Washington, D.C.-based lobbying groups.
Washington's Congressional Budget Office said three quarters of the federal deficit over the next year is caused by economic weakness, Pocan said.
"In other words unemployment and underemployment," he said. "What that tells me...is we should focus on the economy and getting people back to work. That's how you're going to solve the future trajectory problems you're going to have with expenses."
Pocan said the budget proposed by Republicans in the U.S. House, and it's chief sponsor Rep. Paul Ryan, focuses on "problems that aren't problems," and he believes it puts the burden on the "backs of the middle class, seniors and children."
"The budget is full of bad math," Pocan said. "It repeals the benefits of (Obamacare), but keeps the revenue and the savings."
Medicare would be turned into a voucher program under the House proposed budget, and it cuts Medicare spending by $800 billion. He said middle class people will wind up paying more out of pocket or they will be getting less health care. He said the proposal lowers tax rates on the wealthiest by cutting programs middle class families use the most.
About 2 million jobs will be lost if the Republican budget is passed, and taxes would go up on the middle class by an average $3,000 per year, Pocan said.
"It keeps tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas," he said. "We have to say to House Republicans, "That's our money.' Instead of balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class we should have their backs."
NCPSSM President and CEO Max Richtman said there's a wide disconnect between what voters want and what Washington is doing.
"One example of that is the Ryan budget," he said.
Richtman said the NCPSSM opposed the budget because it hurt programs "we care about." He said the advertisements claiming Obamacare cut Medicare by $716 billion wasn't true
"The Affordable Care Act did save $716 billion from Medicare but those savings came out of reimbursement rates and payments to providers not out of seniors pockets," he said. "Seniors got more and paid less under Obamacare."
Richtman said Ryan's budget repeals Obamacare and the benefits to seniors, but keeps the $716 billion savings.
Richtman said Social Security doesn't have a deficit, but a surplus of $2 trillion dollars.
"Social Security hasn't added a penny to the federal debt or the deficit," he said. "It should not be used to bargain away these important programs."
Ryan's budget also hurts children, said Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters. The budget cuts programs like Head Start, which prepares children for school prior to entering kindergarten.
"If we repeal the Affordable Care Act, children with pre-existing conditions will once again have to negotiate with health insurance companies for their benefits," he said.
After the rally, Pocan spoke with the media and said working together on immigration reform might help when it comes to passing a bipartisan budget.
He said he is hopeful some of the new freshman lawmakers might work together to pass a budget.
In a statement from Ryan's press office, the Janesville Congressman said the Republican budget "reforms the federal government so it can keep its promises in the 21st century. It protects and strengthens priorities like Medicare."
"It restores fair play to the marketplace," Ryan said. "And it calls for tax reform, so families and businesses have the certainty they need to save and invest. For the safety net to be secure, we need strong families and a growing economy to support it."
Ryan said the government is spending beyond its means and needs to stop spending money it doesn't have.
"If we're going to find solutions to these problems, then we need to respect this good-faith difference of opinion," he said. "Civil public dialogue goes to the heart of solidarity, because it doesn't divide society into classes. It builds up the common good of all."