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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Video/Photos: Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Ben Ray Lujan Speak to Santa Fe Seniors on Medicare and Social Security

Click for photo album

On Monday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and NM-03 Congressman Ben Ray Lujan visited the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center in Santa Fe to talk about the importance of saving and strengthening Medicare and Social Security. It's a topic that is much on the minds of New Mexicans these days, as these programs are under attack as never before from right-wing extremists gone mad.

Republicans have been mounting a savage campaign against these two highly successful programs that have helped so many seniors obtain low cost, quality health care and live a life of dignity instead of abject poverty. Especially in the U.S. House, where extremists like Rep. Eric Cantor and Rep. John Ryan are pushing to abolish the programs, "privatize" them or at least cripple their ability to function effectively, Dems like Reps. Pelosi and Lujan have their hands full battling misguided right-wing rhetoric with the facts.

Meanwhile, the leading GOP candidate for president,Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has even referred to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme," and claimed the program -- which pays for itself -- is unconstitutional and unsustainable. Nothing could be further from the truth, and both Pelosi and Lujan made it crystal clear that they will fight to protect our social safety net with every ounce of their being in the face of brutal right-wing attacks.

Reps. Pelosi and Lujan addressed a packed house on Monday, accompanied by Santa Fe Mayor David Coss, Sylviana Diaz D'Ouville of the New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans, Carol Estes of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and others active in the senior and health care communities. The large crowd paid rapt attention to the speakers and were clearly looking for reassurances that Congressional Dems will continue to fight hard to protect these vital and often life-saving programs. They got what they came for.

In the video above, Rep. Lujan welcomes everyone, outlines what we are up against from Republicans and asks those present to stay active in helping Dem protect Social Security and Medicare.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi addresses the crowd

In her speech (above) Rep. Pelosi said these programs are "about the economic security of families; it's about our responsibility from one generation to the next." She noted that 46 years ago Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson who said, "no longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine. No longer will illness crush and destroy the savings that people so carefully put away over a lifetime so that they might enjoy dignity in their later years."

She explained that when Social Security was passed, President Franklin Roosevelt said it was a law that "would take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness." This isn't just about how these programs meet the needs of seniors; it's about how these programs "meet the needs of our country," Pelosi emphasized.

The "Super Congress" Table of 12
Rep. Pelosi spoke about the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which is charged with finding $1.5 trillion in cuts by late November, saying, "We're at a place where there's a big debate going on in our country. I think you will agree it has not been a pretty sight. So we have to bring clarity to what is going to happen at that table. And as we bring clarity for all of you, we also hope that it brings you hope." She explained that the "decisions on these programs will take place at "a table of 12 people. This table of 12 cannot be a chopping block for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. It must be a table of hope, of opportunity, of economic growth, a table of greatness for our country, a nurturing table -- not a chopping block."

Pelosi also stressed that all of the proceedings of the "Super Congress" table of 12 should be "open to the public" and "transparent," with real-time webcasts online and broadcasts on TV, so that the "decisions made will be clear to the public." Why? "So when a decision is there that says they want people to pay more for Medicare and get fewer benefits, while they give tax cuts to corporations sending jobs overseas," people will see who is pushing for that. "So when they say they want to block grant and shrink Medicaid, while we can give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in America, while making those who are economically challenged pay more, those who have contributed to the growth of our country," people will know who is supporting that and also "know that we say no!"

Pelosi continued, "And when they say to young people, you're going to pay tens of billions of dollars more for your student loans so we can give tens of billions of dollars in tax subsidies to big oil, the American people will know whose side everyone is on in this debate." 

American Values
Rep. Pelosi said we need to take the discussion to "higher ground." She asked the audience if they thought "most Americans would agree that the education of our children is an important value." Big applause. She asked if most Americans would agree that "a dignified retirement, health and economic security for our seniors" is an American value." Big applause. Can people agree that "creating jobs for the American people is an important value?" Big applause. Would people agree that "protecting the American people -- whether it is the security of safe neighborhoods, clean air, clean water, the national defense of our country -- is an important value? Big applause. She said we are going to do that "in a fiscally responsible way, fix the deficit and take us into the future in a more stable economy."

"So that table shouldn't be about who do we cut and who do we tax; it's about how do we provide growth? How do we use our tax code to do that, how do we make our investments and government investments" so there's "more effective use of those dollars?" 

Standing Our Ground
Pelosi explained that "we are not drawing any lines in the sand. We are open to suggestions that address the greatness of our country" and its values. "Because if you support the values that you have applauded, and you know the American people support those too, you couldn't possibly support the budgets that have been put forth by the Republicans." As for our seniors and veterans, "their concerns will be represented at that table by the Democrats -- I can assure you of that -- and I hope by the Republicans too."

"We try to take as much partisanship out of all of this" as we can. "We try to find our common ground. But where we can't find the common ground, we must stand our ground for our children, for our seniors, for their families, for our sense of community, for our veterans, for those who have built American, for those who have defended America and for those who are America's future." Standing ovation from the crowd.

The Real Causes of the Deficit
Here, Rep. Pelosi takes a question from Rob Nikolewski of the right-wing-funded Capitol Report about how we can possibly protect Social Security and Medicare given the large federal deficit and debt. She notes that we're mistaken if we think that passing the bill for caring for our seniors to the states is actually reducing the deficit.

She agrees that the deficit is large and must be reduced, but says that, "Democrats know how to reduce the deficit. We had to sweep up behind President George Bush I when he left President Clinton a huge deficit. We passed a bill -- our Budget Bill of 1993 -- that took us into a path of fiscal stability" and "raised taxes on the wealthy." She noted that 4 of Clinton's budgets "were either in surplus or in balance."

Then along comes President Bush II. "Tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country. A prescription drug bill that gave away the store to the tune of billions and billions and billions of dollars to the pharmaceutical industry. And two unpaid for wars." As she said, you shouldn't lower taxes for the wealthy when you go into war, but Bush did. She noted that Dems can reduce the defict and will do so, but that the current debate is not truly about reducing the deficit. "If this is all about reducing the deficit, why didn't the Republicans say 'boo' when this defict was being amassed under President Bush? They didn't say word one" at that time.

"Now they say tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs," Pelosi continued. "They didn't during the Bush years! In fact, it's important to note that more jobs in the private sector were created in the second year of the Obama administration than in 8 years of the Bush adminisration." She stressed that "these tax breaks aren't creating jobs; they're just creating a deeper deficit by the same people who now say to this president, and this president alone, that if we have to raise the debt ceiling we have to have all of these cuts in our domestic agenda. They've never said that to any other president."

Pelosi explained that, as far as Republicans go, this is really about "destroying the public role," destroying "public education, public safety, clean air, clean water, public safety, you name it -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They have said they have no place in a free society" and they should "wither on the vine." She continued, "if you understand that they don't believe in the public sector ... and they want to privatize" Social Security and other programs.

In the clip above, Rep. Lujan answers another question from Rob Nikolewski about the deficit by saying, "Look at the trajectory Republicans put us on. When there was revenue, they took that revenue and gave it to the most wealthy in the country. They never brought it back. On top of the costs of Afghanistan and Iraq. And now they're saying, oh, well there's not enough revenue coming in. Well they gave it to all the most wealthy of the country." He says, "That's not right." He noted that, "the words "Social Security" shouldn't even be used in the same sentence with "deficit reduction."

As Rep. Lujan notes, the American people are now waking up to what's really going on, and we are not going to stand for it. The Republicans gave away our tax revenues to the rich and big corporations and now they have the nerve to whine that we have to cut vital services to the people because we don't have enough money to pay for them. No way. It is clearly time to ask the rich and big corporations to pay their fair share -- to share in the sacrifice. No more free lunches for them while the right wingers insist that we must balance our budget on the backs of working and middle class Americans.

All videos and photos by M.E. Broderick.

August 31, 2011 at 11:14 AM in Economy, Populism, Finance, Investments, Jobs, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (NM-03), Senior Citizens, Social Security | Permalink


Yes, she was great, and explained beautifully what was going on with Congress and the Economy.

It's too bad many seniors there couldn't see or hear her. They were seated around the corner from the speakers, and the feed wasn't piped into the video screen on the wall near them. I talked to the Santa Fe public access TV (Channel 28) camera person who was recording it, but it was too late to hook it up.

I hope anyone doing public meetings will make sure that the audience can see and hear the proceedings, especially if they have low vision or hearing. Extra video screens and captioning can be done for speakers -- I saw them used at a disability convention in Albuquerque a few years ago.

Posted by: Michelle Meaders | Aug 31, 2011 3:30:07 PM

Thanks for the nice coverage of this for those who couldn't be there. Pelosi and Lujan were both very good in what they had to say. I wish they had come to Albuquerque!

Posted by: Linda | Aug 31, 2011 6:04:26 PM

Thanks for the coverage, nice

Posted by: Mattes | Aug 31, 2011 9:33:25 PM