Advocates demand meeting with Rep. Young; worried about budget for social service programs

05/10/12 Janelle Irwin
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A group of progressive advocates wants U.S. Representative Bill Young to meet with them to talk about provisions in that controversial budget. The Republican-backed plan in the House would cut funding to things like federal Pell grants, foreclosure assistance programs and Medicare and Medicaid. Members of the Florida Consumer Action Network, or FCAN have been trying to arrange a meeting with Young, but have not been able to so far. So, Soledad Santiago along with about 20 other FCAN supporters took their message directly to his Seminole office today.

“For some reason, the office said that they – we reached out to them, asked for a meeting. They said that they would do that. They called us, but we were never able to get through to them again.”

Young is in Washington D.C. for the legislative session, but the group was met by his legislative assistant. Shirley Miaoulis said she would try to get Young to commit to a meeting, but couldn’t make any promises. She also answered some questions about what the member of Congress might be thinking when he votes on the measure.

“Medicare and Social Security, he’s always been supportive of that. He doesn’t believe in resolving budget issues by cutting Medicare and Social Security.”

"Are you aware that the Ryan budget does…."

“I know that there are certain parts that do. I understand what you’re saying and I know sometimes that’s what happens within a bill. The majority part of the bill is a good bill and there’s part of it that’s not. But then you have to weigh the pros and cons.”

The proposed spending cuts to Medicaid and Medicare are spread out over ten years. The intention of the proposal’s author, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, is to put some money back into military spending. But FCAN’s Santiago thinks the idea of pulling from crucial social service programs is shortsighted.

“If you don’t have a strong middle class and the poor people want to come into the middle class, you don’t have a democracy. That’s been shown all over the world.”

Peggy Goodale, a supporter of the Occupy Movement, recognizes that something needs to be done to balance the budget, but doing it on the backs of the poor is not the way.

“I’d like to see them raise taxes on wealthy people like we used to do. That’s what we did. When you fight a war, you raise taxes. When the war’s over, you lower taxes. When you have a need, everybody chips in together like a family. I think of the United States as a family.”

And her bottom line is that it hurts people who are already hurting the most.

“People are already suffering as it is and to keep taking away from the very programs that keep people afloat are going to hurt them. Some of the people that are going to be here are losing homes, they’ve lost their jobs.”

And what makes Goodale the angriest is her belief that the people who don’t have to worry about losing their homes or their cars or paying back massive student loans aren’t affected by the Ryan budget.

“They’re going to benefit. They’re going to have tax cuts and we’re going to have tax raises. We’re going to have to pay more in taxes. Somebody’s going to have to pick up the tab – the state, local municipalities; they’re just going to have to raise millage rates in order to meet the needs. I think with the homeless problems we have a lot of the states and local governments are taking care of the homeless now. I think it’s just going to be worse.”

FCAN organizers are trying to build a grassroots movement in an attempt to re-direct government priorities by reaching out to new people. Patricia Erickson is a self-proclaimed longtime Democrat and she’s jumping on board with the group’s effort to speak on behalf of the 99%.

“What’s going on when they want to cut back on the entitlements, but they won’t raise the taxes on the very, very wealthy. We’re going upside down and I can’t see where we’re headed in a good way with something like this Ryan plan. It’s just terrible.”

Erickson thinks the stagnancy of government progress is directly related to a Republican agenda to keep President Barack Obama out of office for a second term.

“It’s obvious. I don’t just think it, it’s obvious. I mean like I said with the jobs jobs, why couldn’t the Republicans say ‘ok, I think that sounds like a good idea’ or do it for the people? They voted it out right off the bat. They just are not representing the people, they’re representing their party and they don’t want Obama to get credit for anything.”

And in this case, the Republican majority House’s effort to pass the Ryan budget is largely symbolic because it is unlikely to pass the Democratic controlled Senate. That move is one reason FCAN’s Soledad Santiago is fed up with the flawed political process.

“Our issue isn’t with the working people of America or whoever they’re working for. Our issue really is with the politicians and how they vote.”

Despite the measure passing today, organizers for The Florida Consumer Action Network still plan to share their budgetary concerns with Representative Young as soon as possible so their input might be considered if the House is forced to draft a new budget proposal. WMNF tried to reach Young for comment, but he did not respond by deadline.


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