TRI-CAUCUS ON STALLED DEBT CEILING TALKS
Washington D.C.: Today, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific Caucus addressed the media about the impact that the debt ceiling talks could have on minority communities.
CHC Chairman Charles Gonzalez:
“The debt ceiling issue must be resolved without devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which help millions of American families every day, including millions of Latino seniors and children. The health and well-being of the Hispanic community cannot be held as collateral in these discussions. The debt ceiling question, while important, has diverted our attention from the pressing need of getting Americans back to work. It’s time to find a balanced plan to grow the economy, create jobs, lower the deficit, protect Social Security and Medicare benefits and avoid an unprecedented default crisis.”
CBC Chairman Emanuel Cleaver, II
“There is an urgent need to resolve the debt ceiling issue and it is beyond irresponsible not to raise the debt ceiling. We all agree that we have to responsibly reduce the deficit, but not on the backs of our hard working American families while protecting special interest and the wealthiest Americans. African Americans Senior and children heavily rely on vital programs like Medicare, Medicaid and social security. Deep cuts to these critical programs would put the well being of our families and loved ones at risk. Now is the time for real work to be done, jobs to be created, and to protect and uplift our citizens’ quality of life. It is not the time for ideological wars. It is time to cut the political games, instead of critical programs that protect hard-working American families, and get Americans back to work.”
CAPAC Chairwoman Judy Chu:
“With Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security the government made a pledge to the American people. And just as we must keep our promises to pay our bills, so too must we keep our promises to our seniors. When the average American senior is squeaking by on only $19,000, we shouldn’t be subsidizing millionaires’ yachts with a $140,000 in tax break every year. These three programs are critical to our communities and there is no reason that our seniors or the neediest among us need to struggle to pay their hospital bills.”
CHC Member Raul Grijalva:
“Instead of toying with ways to slash vital programs to make different budget numbers align on paper, Congress and the White House should focus on creating jobs, protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, ending corporate subsidies and millionaire tax giveaways, and ensuring our economy works for everyone rather than a greedy few. Republicans are desperate to cut Medicare and Medicaid to unsustainably low levels and put seniors’ well-being at risk. No matter who you are or what you earn in a year, that’s a bad idea for the country, and I’m proud to stand against it.”
CAPAC Member Mike Honda:
“As the elected representatives of the American people, we need to be fair and honest in our approach and find a way to come together to find a solution. It is false to claim that you can equate taking back $20 billion in tax charity for oil companies with cutting trillions of dollars from Social Security and Medicare. We owe it to the American people to do better.”
CBC member Charles Rangel:
“We have hoped that we would deal with the debt ceiling, which gives the President the ability to say that when America borrows, America pays back. We thought that the integrity of this country would never be challenged by certain Members of this Congress. That is not the case, and the President and our budget are being held hostage. It wasn’t just Democrats, but Republicans and Independents who woke up in the morning and had lost their jobs, homes, pension funds, savings, and their self esteem. When we talk about cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, we’re not talking about party labels: We’re talking about all Americans and immigrants who have invested so much in this country but are now losing sight of the American Dream and becoming hopeless.”
CHC Member Lucille Roybal-Allard:
“Today I join my colleagues in the Tri-Caucus in voicing our grave concerns about cuts to critical safety net programs being considered as a way to balance the budget. In addition to potentially devastating cuts to Medicare and Social Security, some of the most damaging proposals being discussed in these budget debates are those that involve the Medicaid program. While I agree that we must look for savings and inefficiencies in all of our social programs, it is imperative that we do not decimate what has been the essential primary health coverage for millions of our low-income Americans, including 11 million women and 30 million children. Furthermore, cutting Medicaid harms 16 million seniors and individuals with disabilities who need long-term care. It is absolutely unacceptable to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens while preserving tax breaks for the wealthiest two percent of the population.”
Background on Hispanics:
• Social Security provides benefits to over 2 million Latino households, nearly 1 out of 6 (16 percent).
• For Latinos over the age of 65, the average 2008 benefit for Latino men was $12,213 and only $9,536 for Latino women.
• These Social Security benefits compromise nearly all the income for almost half, 44.2 percent, of Latino elderly households and represent 75.4 percent of the total income of Latino elderly households receiving benefits.
• Without Social Security, the elderly Latino poverty rate would increase from roughly 1 out of 6 (17.9 percent) to 1 out of 2 (50.7 percent).
Data from http://www.ssa.gov/pressoffice/factsheets/hispanics.htm
Graph from Washington Post, on Latinos and Social Security: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/surviving-in-retirement/2011/03/28/AFeeSWrB_graphic.html
Background on African Americans:
• In 2009, the average annual Social Security income received by African American men 65 years and older was $13,889, compared to $11, 369 for African American women.
• Among African Americans receiving Social Security, about 29 percent of elderly married couples and 56 percent of unmarried elderly persons relied on Social Security for 90 percent or more of their income.
• 67% of African Americans are at or below the poverty line, and 12% of African Americans rely on the program to survive. The most vulnerable cannot afford to see an end to Medicare.
• Medicaid plays a particularly important role among black Americans who are low-income, children, or in poor health. Medicaid makes a real and tangible difference in people’s health; improving access to health care, improving financial security, and improving reported health status.
• In 2009, Medicaid covered nearly half (49%) of poor black Americans, or those living below the poverty line ($22,050 for a family of four in 2009), and a quarter (24%) of near-poor, or those with incomes above poverty but below twice the poverty line.
• Medicaid covered half of all black children in the United States and nearly two-thirds (64%) of low-income black children. Medicaid is an important source of coverage for many black Americans with substantial health services needs. Medicaid covered over a third (35%) of blacks in fair or poor health and 59% of blacks living with HIV/AIDS.
Background on Asian and Pacific Islander Americans:
• Social Security keeps 1 in 5 Asian American and Pacific Islander seniors out of poverty.
• Among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders age 65 and older, 29% of married couples and 60% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for more than 90% of their income.
• 2.1 million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders rely on Medicaid for health care.
• Over 20% of Southeast Asian Americans under the age of 18 live in poverty and rely on Medicaid for their healthcare needs.
• 17% of Asian Americans are uninsured, and that number is much higher for certain subgroups: 31% of Korean Americans and 24% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders lack health insurance. Without safety nets provided by programs like Medicare and Medicaid, these individuals would be one hospital visit away from bankruptcy.