September 7, 2005- Rep. Markey Opening Statement at Energy and Commerce Hearing on "Medicaid: Empowering Beneficiaries on the Road to Reform"

"Today a white hot spotlight is shining on what could be a very black mark in this Congress – the enforcement of budget cuts against the poor while money continues to be shoveled out the door to the richest fat cats and the biggest corporations in the form of tax cuts, subsidies, royalty relief, and other gems of tax avoidance and greed.

And that was BEFORE the hurricane hit.

Now the question is squarely on the table – is this Republican Congress going to “stay the course” on cuts to the least fortunate Americans, to those who disaster, health emergencies, poverty have brought low?

Fundamentally, this is a moral question, not a budget matter.  If the budget mattered to this Congress, the tax cuts would have been cancelled after 9/11.  but they weren’t.  They should have been cancelled after the Administration decided to start a war, but they weren’t.  Now the safety net is down for all to see, and billions more are needed to rebuild the Gulf Coast, and yet here we are, engaging in the process of deciding how many more poor or near-poor families should be asked to pay more so that changes don’t have to be made in tax cuts to the rich.

As we consider a cut of $10 billion in Medicaid, remember it will go to capital gains and dividend tax breaks. 53% of the benefit of these tax breaks will go to people who make more than $1 million a year.  That is just morally wrong.

40% of all babies in our country are born on Medicaid.

Two-thirds of all people in nursing homes are on Medicaid.

90% of all HIV children are on Medicaid.

Half of all mental health services are provided through Medicaid.

If we have some saving that we might be able to get from reform, it should go back into the program to help those poor people and those people with health problems.

All of the blind and disabled in America are on Medicaid.

And this Congress, this Republican Congress is talking about a tax cut for people who make over $1 million a year out of the savings that can be taken from these people at this time in our country.

We just learned from the U.S. Census announced that 1.1 million more people fell into poverty in 2004. We now know that 37 million Americans are in poverty.

We know that during this Administration, the infant mortality rate in the United States started rising for the first time since 1958, and has actually risen every year in the last 5 years.

That in some cities in America the infant mortality rate is higher than some cities in India.

This is no time to be cutting Medicaid, this is no time to take $10 billion from Americans who are most in need and giving it to people who are making more than a million a year.

This is a moral decision, not a budget decision. "