By Elisabeth Mistretta
Since the House passed the 2012 federal budget blueprint last week, area senior citizens have busied phone lines at U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert's office, wondering if their Medicare and Social Security benefits are safe.
In response, the Hinsdale Republican met with nearly 100 seniors Wednesday morning at Mayslake Village in Oak Brook to explain how they might be affected.
"This is the most important thing I'm going to say today: We made no changes. There will be no changes to Medicare for those who are 55 and older. No changes to Social Security," Biggert said. "The president and Nancy Pelosi have said Medicare is gone as you have known it. It is not true."
Biggert said the changes will affect residents younger than 55 because Medicare is gradually "going broke" as national spending outpaces revenues and Americans continue to live longer.
With many in the audience wanting to know what Congress is doing to ease America's $14.3 trillion deficit, Biggert touted the Republican "Path to Prosperity" bill that she said cuts $6 trillion from the budget over 10 years through measures like tax reform.
Residents like Jim Rohan were astounded by the size of our national shortfall.
"Whoa, we don't even know how much money that is," he said.
Biggert said there are no quick fixes, such as abandoning the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, and bipartisan cooperation will be key.
"We don't want to play the blame game, let's just get it right and get it back on track," Biggert said.
But some residents were concerned about how elected leaders are being frugal closer to home.
"What has Congress cut back on as they are asking ordinary people to cut back?" said Barbara Reilly of Oak Brook.
Biggert outlined personal cutbacks, such as fewer visits to her children who live throughout the country and Europe, and her office's return of about $800,000 from its budget to taxpayers over the past 13 years.
She also noted the elimination of budget earmarks for pet projects.
"This was hard, because there are things that are not expensive and earmarks were an important thing for Mayslake, for what we do in the district," said Biggert. "But there was a lot of greed with some leaders saying "I need a bridge to nowhere' ... and that's where problems started."