Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Allyson Schwartz's April 13 appearance on Washington Journal

Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz appeared on C-SPAN's Washington Journal on April 13, to discuss the federal budget. Schwartz serves on the House Budget Committee. The host asked some questions but also took calls and texts from viewers. Her appearance was nearly an hour long, and, at the time of this writing, is still available if readers would like to listen for themselves.

These are my rough notes from watching the program via the Internet. It is not intended as a full or complete transcript. I apologize in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

Member of House Budget Committee

Q: Paul Ryan budget

AS: Paul Ryan did present Republican budget, went through 12 hour debate, one point was accepted, consider defense cuts part of budget. We think Bush era tax cuts should expire for wealthiest in 2 years. He proposed dramatic changes for Medicare, etc. The proposal put out there by Republicans. We also have to look at entire budget not just non-defense. We really need to help seniors. Innovate. Ryan budget is Republican budget. They voted for it. We can’t balance budget on backs of seniors.

Q: WSJ editorial on increasing deficits. “Ryan budget starts to repair damage.” Explosion of spending under Obama.

AS: They aren’t mentioning extraordinary downturn in economy. More unemployment. Came out of Bush years. Didn’t just happen. Inherited terrible terrible recession. It was a one-time action. Stimulus did add to deficit. We had to stop recession from becoming a depression. It did retain jobs, kept situation from being much much worse. Last few months gaining jobs every month. A number of these actions worked. Stopped depression. Retained jobs. Last 6-8 months gaining jobs, growth in gdp. Starting to see some economic growth.

Q: Mitch McConnell says in recent past Dems ignoring deficit. Now spending reductions. Debate turned from how much to grow govt to how to reduce it.

AS: We have said all along that we have to look at spending cuts but not a narrow part of the budget but across the budget. Also look at how much it costs to give tax breaks for corporations and certain individuals. We’ve always been concerned about deficits. Health law saves money over time. We really do want to work together but not willing to cut obligations to seniors or to the future. There are some investments we need to make, such as education.

Q: Medicare. Questions from NYT. Will program continue to say how much doctors paid, etc. Will Medicare still increase spending or subsidize coverage for older Americans

AS: Ryan plan will end Medicare as we know it, no more guaranteed benefits. Instead under GOP plan future seniors will get a limited voucher to buy coverage in private marketplace. Knowing the voucher will not grow in the future to meet rising health care costs. We need to bring down rising health care costs for all Americans. Throwing individual seniors into private market place. Right now private marketplace doesn’t want to cover sick children, let alone sick elderly.

Q: Where will compromise be?

AS: If I could predict that it would be quite something. But there has to be compromise. GOP says will not consider any kind of additional taxes from 1 or 2% wealthiest. Would rather protect richest than protect seniors or support things like Head Start. We have already said that we are very open to spending cuts. Already voted for $50B in spending cuts. We’ve been spending more than we’re taking in for years. Saw huge rise in deficit in Bush years. Tax cuts cost money. We should get better results for money. Insist on better job for money we are spending in health care. There are smart ways of reducing costs under health care. Should spend well and on our top priorities.

Q: D budget under Chris Van Hollen

AS: Everything on the table. Meet our obligations.

Caller: Agree with AS. My problem is new GOP that came in, go hand in hand with old Democrats. Where are the new ideas at?

AS: Not sure I agree that new GOP hand in hand with old Dems. Some of the new GOP in DC not interested in compromise or finding common ground.

Caller: Whose idea was it to drop costs of food and energy from cost of living calculations. Two years of no raise in Social Security. Which administration is responsible.

AS: Not sure of the specifics. Seniors did not receive cost of living increase because of cost of consumer products and inflation. Not this year or year before. Some discussion whether there needs to be a change in the calculation in cost of living. Calculations does not include cable or cell phone.

Q: Social Security. Fewer people supporting the retired. Support increase in retirement age?

AS: We do need to look at social security going forward. We did anticipate it and put some extra money away. We do have a number of years to work this out. To do that we need to have everything on the table.

Q: cap? 108K?

AS: yes, is that cap appropriate? Should it be raised so wealth pay more into social security

Caller: Social Security and Medicare. Raise the tariffs a little bit. Why not allow healthy people to buy into Medicare? Will bring rates down. Can’t just tell people to die!

AS: I do think we need to look at raising cap. Look at both revenue and expense side. There are so many American seniors living on Social Security, average amount is $14K a year. Encourage all Americans to save a little bit early on, let compounding interest accumulate. Take advantage of 401Ks, etc. With health care law. If all Americans buy health insurance it will help us in the long run. We did not choose to open up Medicare. People said they don’t want more govt. So we said all should buy in marketplace with kind of rules on what should be included and covered. Competition will help bring down costs. GOP want to repeal those consumer protections in the health care law.

Q: Hard to save

AS: Over time we’ve seen real wage degradation. We want to see more money over time so people can save more. Some taxes go to Medicare and Social Security, food safety, and clean air.

Q: Paul Ryan says we need tax reform not tax hikes.

AS: We do need tax reform. We can reduce tax rate if we get rid of specific tax reductions (breaks). What Paul Ryan is saying is that he wants to protect tax breaks for multimillionaires. We want to protect those who earn less than $250K.

Q: Do you tweet?

AS: I don’t. My staff said I should. I was sitting next to another rep on Amtrak who tweeted that he was sitting next to me.

Caller: A couple of comments and then a question. She and husband run a small business. For the last year and half, sales declining. Customers not expanding or buying only doing what they can to get by. Because of ObamaCare. It has everybody in the business community so scared that they are frozen in time.

AS: I don’t know what kind of product she’s producing but we are deeply concerned about struggling businesses and consumer confidence. We are really hoping you can do better in the future. What we’re beginning to see is growth in GDP. We try to be very supportive of small business. Get a tax credit for new hires, etc. One of the reasons we have the health care law is the high cost of health care for business. Under health care law can get tax credits for health care. One of the reasons we did this is increase in premiums is unsustainable. Only way to reduce is to participate in marketplace help negotiating with companies in exchanges. Kicks in in 2014. Have to bring down rising expenses and costs. For large and small businesses, individuals, government.

TEXT: How much would deficit go down if Bush tax cuts expire

AS: We do have to let tax cuts expire. $750B. He may have watched Daily Show. Jon Stewart had a graphic on this. We have to look at defense. Look at Pentagon. Nondefense. Bring down costs of Medicare. As we go forward, reduce spending, pay down national debt.

Caller: Back in the 90’s GOP tried to have Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security put on stock exchange. They’re wrapping themselves up in this Constitution thing. They don’t have a hoot about the elderly people, only want to help multimillionaires. Want to reduce the tax rates for the elderly. I don’t like what they’re trying to do.

AS: Thank you for your comments. You are right. They only want to protect multimillionaires. Very similar to trying to privatize. Imagine what would have happened if they had succeeded. They want to end Medicare, give voucher, premium support, partial support, any increased costs fall on seniors. If you can’t afford your health care it’s on you. I think we do need to rein in costs but this is not the way to go.

TEXT: If the argument is framed solely in cuts GOP always wins because they are willing to cut more. Obama not leading on budget.

AS: We are interested. President started out with his proposed budget they did have spending cuts. Freeze on hiring in federal govt.

Q: You know cuts have to come from entitlements and defense.

AS: It can’t just be about spending cuts. It has to be about reining in entitlement costs. Have to grow the economy. Republicans willing to take us to the brink. Huge threat to our economic security. If govt shut down 800K people out of work. Debt ceiling – willing to take it to the brink. They are willing to let govt default on international loans.

Q: debt commission. President declined to even state a point of view

AS: This is really about finding a common ground. The president did leave it to us. He said work it out. The president sent his team over to the senate to negotiate. Team met in the White House.

Caller: A few points: hypocrisy of both parties. GOP tried to make it an ideological battle. Dems tried to make it about Planned Parenthood. People using Planned Parenthood would qualify for Medicaid. Agree that everything needs to be on table. Not so much about taxing rich but cutting spending. I need to live on a budget.

AS: Of course we have to start live within budget just as families do. States have to balance their budgets. Feds need to move to balanced budget. Like families need to figure out how to make it happen. Can’t do it in a few months. Not going to all happen in a few years. GOP budget won’t get us there in a few years. Fragile economic growth right now. Have to invest in education and innovation. That really is a challenge. Everything on the table.

Text: Why do Dems always place class warfare card. Won’t help oil companies but will help windmills companies that only benefit a few.

AS: Some oil companies actually investing in alternative fuels. Don’t want to put down alternative fuels. Need to look at other alternative energy possibilities. Need to be less depending on foreign oil. Need to get some percentage of our energy from alternative fuels. Helps reduce our costs. Need to do more.

Caller: Change what goes into Medicare. Learned a lot when mother ill and passed away. Natureopathic medicine not covered. Should be. Would like to see additional vouchers for things like community gym membership, subsidize wellness move away from doctors, hospitals and medications.

AS: People need to take personal responsibility. Exercise, eat right. It’s not easy. I know that. I worked on this myself, created new incentives and emphasis on primary care. Have a primary care doctor or physicians assistant help navigate through specialists. Work out with us, reach out to us. Help people with illness like diabetic coordinate care, etc. never get to point of needing dialysis.

Q: What about president’s speech today

AS: Not sure what he will say. Think he will talk about Medicare, etc. but emphasis on primary care. Good outcomes, reduce costs better than letting people negotiate health care on their own. Cut special provisions for certain corporations. But meet our obligations.

Q: two votes tomorrow. Will you support budget agreement?

AS: Hope to but have to look at to make sure won’t hurt constituents. Won’t support Ryan budget.

Q: How is Boehner doing?

AS: We did get to agreement on continuing resolution. He’s in a tough spot. He’s got some people who are very rigid. We need to find more common ground.

Caller: Tired of hearing how awful the rich are and how we should hate the rich. Dems want to demonize rich. They are the people who are hiring us and creating jobs. Why don’t Dems see that?

AS: It’s really not the way I want to be heard. In America we have great hopes that all of us can be rich someday. We want to make sure everyone can go to college. It’s great that we have a capitalist system that lets people make a lot of money. We aren’t saying don’t make the money but are saying multimillionaires should pay a little more. Saying if we give very rich tax breaks the money will trickle down doesn’t work. If that were true we would have seen a lot of economic growth in Bush years. There are a lot of ways we can invest and grow this economy. Incentivize innovation. Long way to go.

Q: Rich invest their money in China and don’t create jobs in the US

Caller: I admire the rich and thank them for the jobs they gave me. Has chronic disease. Get $821 / month gets food stamps. Sorry to take money from the rich. Try to live within means.

AS: This story has a lot to do with health care. She could have had access treatment and continue working.

Caller: Church only takes 10%, govt wants 25%

AS: We could lower overall rates if close some tax breaks. That is a reasonable thing to do as long as we close tax breaks.

Again, if you want to listen to the conversation yourself, the link is:

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