Protestors call on Rubio to preserve current Medicare budget

05/31/11 Kate Bradshaw
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Last week the U.S. Senate shot down a controversial House budget that included sweeping changes to Medicare, but critics of the proposal aren’t quite ready to rest easy. About ten people demonstrated outside Senator Marco Rubio’s office in Tampa earlier today. Tim Heberlein of the Florida Consumer Action Network spearheaded the event, which attracted a range of activists.

When you have to have that conversation with people about what this really means to them, you're not just talking to a feminist, you're not just talking to a student, you're not just talking to someone who's been overseas, served their country overseas. You're talking to, a lot of people fall into multiple constituencies.

They were trying to get in a word with Senator Rubio, who was a strong supporter of the budget, which Republican Representative Paul Ryan put forward. USF Junior Jackie Horwich showed up on behalf of students. She said cuts to federal Pell grants contained in Ryan’s proposal would make it even tougher on struggling students.

I take risks every day when I get into my car, hoping my hood doesn't fly off on the Interstate, due to repairs I can't afford to make. I worry about how I will afford my rent, gas, and food every month, and let's not even talk about car insurance, medical visits, and cell-phone bills. However, thanks to the financial aid I receive, one thing I don't have to worry about is paying for my education. The Pell Grant has assisted me in purchasing textbooks, notebooks, tape recorders, and of course, tuition, which is one a never-ending increase.

Alex Burgos, a spokesperson for Senator Rubio, said the senator was himself a Pell Grant recipient and thinks it’s a legitimate expense. The issue, Burgos said, is that the government can’t afford such programs right now.

The problem that we have today is that government is spending more money than it's taking in. Our debt limit has been surpassed to $14.3 trillion, and there's no plan to reduce it.

Ryan’s proposal also includes sweeping changes to Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare’s current model would be replaced with a voucher system and Medicaid funding would come to states in the form of block grants. Eleanor Cecil of the National Organization for Women’s Tampa branch said these changes would disproportionately affect women.

As far as Medicare is concerned, 55 percent of the recipients are women. And as far as Medicaid is concerned, 70 percent of the recipients are women. Talk about a disproportionate effect. This is a disproportionate effect.

Burgos said a key commitment for the senator is to keep Medicare from going bankrupt - something that would impact the lives of countless Americans, regardless of gender, for years to come.

Senator Rubio is honoring his commitment to Floridians by stepping up to save Medicare, and now the liberal political hacks and demagogues are coming out to spew their lives and partisan venom, without so much as offering a single idea that would actually save Medicare from bankruptcy. And because they have no plan to save Medicare from bankruptcy, and can only organize attacks against the only plan to save Medicare, they should be challenged to either put up their own plan to save Medicare, or go home.

Critics of the Republicans’ fiscal policies say the GOP is trying to balance the budget on the backs of working people, and that there are other ways to tackle the deficit. They say cutting spending on the Iraq and Afghan wars and ending tax breaks for the rich might do the trick. Walt Seely is with a local chapter of

It appears that our congressmen don't seem to think that cutting from the military and war is appropriate. My message is this: I'm not here to speak against the military. I support the military, but we have misused them and we have abused them. They do not belong in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rubio spokesperson Alex Burgos said the senator sees national security as a top priority.

Our national security is essential, and cannot be sacrificed for needless reasons. But again, the top programs and the top areas that need to be reformed for future generations—not for current seniors, not for those nearing retirement, but for future generations—are Social Security and Medicare.

This isn’t the first time the demise of Medicare has been forecast. The 45-year-old program was projected to run out of money by 1976, for example, and many times since has been given a short life expectancy. Eleanor Cecil of the National Organization of women said the proposal to turn Medicare into a voucher-based system is a political tool. She said it may have died in the Senate, but that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t bring up a similar concept some time soon.

Even though it's been voted down—it has, for the time being—it's not going away. That's a bargaining chip that they're starting with.

Members of Rubio’s staff told the protesters that they will pass the group’s concerns on to the Senator. Event organizers are planning another demonstration for June 7, which marks the tenth anniversary of the Bush tax cuts.

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