April 28, 2011
Protesters join federal budget debate
Group marches to Rep. Richard Hanna’s Cortland office to oppose cuts, clashes with his supporters
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Kim Collins, left, and Gail Benedict, right, lead a group of marchers down Tompkins Street to the Cortland office of Republican Rep. Richard Hanna Wednesday to protest possible spending cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Congress is proposing a cut to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in 2022, which prompted about 50 people to protest Wednesday in downtown Cortland.
Their main target was Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), who voted recently to support a federal budget proposal that includes a $1.4 trillion or 10 percent cut to Medicaid, a $1.7 billion or 3 percent cut to Social Security, and changes to Medicare that the protesters said will force them to shop around to private medical carriers.
The bill, called the Ryan Budget Bill, would raise the age for collecting Social Security from 65 to 69 and raise the age for receiving Medicare from 65 to 67. The House passed the bill, proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), by a 235-193 vote on April 15. Hanna voted yes.
The protesters gathered in front of the Post Office and marched around the corner to Hanna’s regional office at 18 Tompkins St., where they stood chanting in the driveway and then presented his Cortland regional director, Terre Dennis, with petitions asking him to reverse his vote and requested a meeting with him.
They performed a skit showing an elderly man robbing a diner to get money for his ill wife because he cannot afford health care, who is chased away by a police officer who is elderly but still working because he cannot afford to retire until he is 69.
They then sang a Dixieland tune with new lyrics that called Hanna “the meanest man in town.” Its title was “Hard-Hearted Hanna.”
They were followed by seven Hanna supporters, who shouted that federal budget cuts need to come from somewhere and everyone should sacrifice.
“I’m 53 and these cuts will affect me by the time I’m 55 — it will cost me thousands more to get medical care,” said Mary Clark, the protest organizer from Citizen Action of New York. “Anyone 55 and over will have to buy health care on the open market with a voucher that will not come close to buying you the same comprehensive coverage that Medicare provides.”
Clark said people are being forced to retire early, and now would have to wait even longer to be eligible for Social Security or Medicare.
The Medicaid cuts will harm home care for the elderly, families with low income, and nursing homes, which rely on Medicaid for up to 65 percent of their funding.
“I’ve been collecting Social Security for a while,” said retired SUNY Cortland professor Jo Schaffer. “It will not make me rich but it gives me a comfortable life.”
Andrea Rankin, retired Cortland County health administrator, said people who do manual or physical labor especially need health care and now would have to wait until they are older to receive it.
Across Main Street and then following along with the group as they walked to Hanna’s office, people who support Hanna’s votes held up signs and eventually engaged in shouting contests outside Hanna’s office.
“Cut Spending, Hanna Just Do It,” read one man’s sign. Another read, “I Support Hanna, I Support Tax Cuts.”
The counter-protesters said they worried about Social Security and their ability to live after they retire, just as the protesters do, but think the federal cuts need to come throughout the budget.
“We’re all going to have to sacrifice,” said Mary DeMunn, a counter-protester.
“I support Hanna,” a woman yelled.
“I support people,” a protester yelled.
“We support Medicare,” a Hanna backer yelled.
“We already paid for it,” Clark shouted.
“How do you pay for it?” shouted Erich DeMunn, a Hanna backer.
“Hands off Social Security, hands off Social Security,” several protesters yelled in unison at him.
Dennis told the protesters she would give Hanna the petitions but wanted to know which people actually lived in the 24th District. Clark said she would provide that information.
Hanna’s district stretches from Seneca to Herkimer counties, touching a total of 11 counties.
Citizen Action of New York is the state affiliate of USAction, which brings together citizen organizations from around the country to advocate for progressive issues.
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