Mark Pocan Criticizes Paul Ryan Budget

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Mark Pocan Criticizes Paul Ryan Budget

Premiere Date: 
April 4, 2014

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, reacts to the budget from fellow Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Barack Obama:

7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private insurance plans through these marketplaces, 7.1.

Frederica Freyberg:

I’m Frederica Freyberg. Tonight on “Here and Now,” the president points to its popularity, but Republicans take aim once again at the Affordable Care Act in the new budget proposed by Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan. More on that, including an interview with Democratic representative, Mark Pocan. A new report shows Wisconsin ranks dead last when it comes to the well-being of African-American children in our state. And reporter Zac Schultz looks at record high dairy prices.

But first, the deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act came and went despite nagging problems with the website. President Barack Obama says, with more than seven million people signing up in this first enrollment period, millions more he says, will gain coverage with each passing year.

Barack Obama:

I will always work with anyone who is willing to make this law work even better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

Frederica Freyberg:

Not if most Republicans have anything to do with it, including the powerful chair of the house budget committee, Wisconsin congressman, Paul Ryan. His 2015 budget, formally introduced this week, calls once again to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Paul Ryan:

Now I know our friends on the other side might dispute this point, but remember, it was Obamacare that ended Medicare as we know it. Remember, it was Obamacare that cut $700 billion from Medicare.  It was Obamacare that set up a board of 15 un-elected bureaucrats to ration care for seniors. And that’s why this budget will repeal Obamacare in its entirety.

Frederica Freyberg:

That is just one prong of Ryan’s latest budget plan, which reads very similar to his previous outlines to balance the books. He would make $5.1 trillion in spending cuts over ten years, again, fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and cut corporate and individual top tax rates to 25% from higher current rates. Additionally, the Ryan Budget once again calls for making Medicare a "premium support" or voucher plan, makes Medicaid a block-grant program, it would cut food stamps and college grant programs, but increase military spending  nearly $500 billion dollars over ten years.

Now the Ryan budget is regarded more as a political manifesto in this election year than a fiscal  one because a budget plan approved in December already set spending for two years. We invited Congressman Ryan to join us tonight. He was unable to do so. But with the out-line of his plan, we turn across the aisle to a Democratic member of the house Budget committee, US representative, Mark Pocan, of Madison. He joins us from Washington. Congressman, thank very much for doing so.

Mark Pocan:

Glad to be here, Frederica.

Frederica Freyberg:

On the Ryan budget plan, let me guess, you don't like it?

Mark Pocan:

I don't think many people like it. You know, Chairman Ryan referred to it as a win/win budget. Well, if you’re in the top 1% and you’re in the second percentile, I guess those are the win/wins. The rest of the 98% of us wind up paying for all of his spending cuts for the most wealthy.

Frederica Freyberg:

If this is a political document headed into the next election, doesn't it kind of reprise the Mitt  Romney persuasion that 47% of Americans are dependent on government? How does that message work? 

Mark Pocan:

You know, I think we should talk about this in every single district because, as you said, even though it's not a fiscal reality, it is the political reality. This is what the Republicans would do if they keep control of the house, if they would get control of the senate, and if they had control of the White House. This is their agenda. This is an agenda that lowers the top tax rate 25%. And the only way you can do that, even his own chairman of the Ways and Means committee has shown us with his tax reform, you have to tax the middle class in order to do that. So all of us pay are going to pay for more tax breaks for the wealthiest. The Economic Policy Institute said this would cost three million jobs by 2016. That's like firing every single working person in the state of Wisconsin. It's a bad budget on so many levels. And I think the fact that we should talk about it. I would love to have every single member of congress and every candidate in the entire country talk about this budget, because this is the road map for the Republican majority. And it’s a pretty scary road map.

Frederica Freyberg:

Even still, some house Republicans though don't think this budget goes far enough. If that's them on that side, where are you?  Would you like to increase spending, alternatively, and taxes?

Mark Pocan:

We have a Democratic budget that actually grows the economy. You know, we’re told the biggest part of what we need to do to get us out of, obviously this is a slower economy, and get people back working. So we have a budget that invests in infrastructure, and research and development, and education. Those things all get cut by the Ryan Republican budget. It's just a completely different document. It’s not saying you’ve got to tax more, but it’s saying, let's make sure you put actually investments in the economy to get people working. When people are working, they’re putting money into the economy, and that’s how you create even more jobs. But the Ryan budget-- Just to give you one example, food stamps. You mentioned that. We had a big fight in congress when the house Republicans first had a $29 billion cut, then they went to a $39 billion cut. And in the end the compromise to with the senate was an $8 billion cut. In the Ryan budget, there's $125 billion cut. It's unimaginable. So the budget is based on a bunch of smoke and mirrors. He repeals the Affordable Care Act, but then he keeps all the revenue and savings from it. You can’t do that. That’s mathematically impossible. You can ask an elementary school student and that would come out that way. So really, you know, to try to argue that there’s any serious merit in the proposal, it's more showing what they would like to do politically. The fact that the Tea Party would like to go further right just should show you how scary some of the things that I’ve got to deal with on a daily basis are.

Frederica Freyberg:

As for repealing the Affordable Care Act, how deflating, if at all, are the enrollment numbers, do you suppose, for members of congress still intent on getting rid of it?

Mark Pocan:

I’ll tell you, you know, we voted, I think, for the 52nd or 53rd time this week to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This week 7.1 million people signed up for the federal exchange. Millions more in other areas, including state exchanges, Medicaid expansion, children under their adults’ policy. In the end, this is done exactly what we said it would, which is make sure that access to healthcare happened to millions and millions more people. And the fact that they still are trying to have, you know, successes on fights of the roll out with the website. Let’s put it this way,  if you want healthcare access, you support the Democrats. If you want a good website, I guess you support Republicans. But that’s really what the debate’s come down to.

Frederica Freyberg:

And yet, the most recent statewide poll here in Wisconsin shows that 50% of the respondents have an unfavorable view of so-called Obamacare.  How do supporters running for office square with that impression of the law?

Mark Pocan:

You know, what we need to do as good of a job of education as, I think, the opponents have. I give the opponents credit. They’ve made Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act a bad word, but when you also poll on all the provisions on what’s in the Affordable Care Act, they poll off-the-charts positive. So they actually support what's in the law, they’ve just heard this word, Obamacare, is somehow bad, because they did a better job in messaging. So I want to talk about those successes, what’s in the law, because I know people will support those provisions. And I'm not afraid to talk about that, nor should, I think, anyone.

Frederica Freyberg:

I’m going to depart a little bit from this discussion and ask you a couple of questions. One, reaction to Republican senator Glenn Grothman challenging Congressman Tom Petri? 

Mark Pocan:

You know, if the Republican party thinks it’s a good idea to trade out a member with a lot of seniority and a lot of expertise in important issues like transportation and education, to put in someone who would join the Tea Party fringe group of 30 or 40 that shut down government, maybe that’s where the Republican party wants to go. But in my opinion, it would be a bad move. But, you know, for the sake of Wisconsin, I think, our district members, both Democrats and Republicans, fight for the state pretty well together. I don't think you can get someone to do a better job than what he’s been doing in his district given the issues that he believes in. 

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. And finally, Congressman, your prediction on a score of the Wisconsin/Kentucky game? 

Mark Pocan:

Well, I hope I win. I’ve bet the member of congress who represents Kentucky. The problem is I’m kind of in a lose/lose situation. We win, I get Kentucky cheese versus Wisconsin cheese. That’s not much of a prize. So I hope we win because we should win, but if we do lose, you know, he’ll get a good deal. And the best I get is Kentucky cheese. 

Frederica Freyberg:

What about a score prediction? 

Mark Pocan:

I don't have that offhand. I just hope we come through. It's going to be a big weekend. We’ve got a lot of people I know heading down there this weekend, and I hope they have a great time. 

Frederica Freyberg:

Me too. All right. Congressman Mark Pocan, thank you very much for joining us. 

Mark Pocan:

Thank you.


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