SANTA FE, N.M. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi came to Santa Fe on Monday and argued for a “balanced approach” to the federal government’s budget reduction efforts.
The California Democrat and former House speaker decried a cuts-only plan as a “terrible idea” during a stop Monday morning at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center.
“People talk about cuts and they talk about revenue,” said Pelosi. “I want those people to talk about jobs. I want them to talk about growth. I want them to reduce the deficit by producing jobs that create revenue that comes into the treasury to reduce the deficit. That’s where the discussion should be.”
Members of a new joint committee in Congress charged with finding over a trillion dollars in budget savings must come to the table and negotiate together in good faith, she said.
Pelosi spent the morning touring the Mary Gonzales center in what was billed as a discussion on efforts to protect Medicare and Social Security. She and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján of Santa Fe spoke to a packed house of seniors, local politicians and others in the center’s cafeteria.
A fiery Pelosi said the budget debate, for some Republicans, isn’t about reducing the deficit. If it were, action would have been taken “when this debt was being amassed under President Bush,” she said.
Rather, Pelosi charged, “this is about destroying the public role,” including Social Security and Medicare, she said.
“That’s why this is hard at the table,” she said. “If the goal is deficit reduction, let’s make some serious decisions about that. If the goal is to destroy the public sector, let the American people know what is at stake in this debate,” she said.
Annaliese Wiederspahn, spokeswoman for the Republican Party of New Mexico, later called blaming the country’s budget problems on the Bush administration “laughable.”
“Nancy Pelosi is trying to distract from the issue that they (Democrats) have no solutions,” Wiederspahn said. “They can’t create jobs, unemployment has been above 8 percent for 19 months, basically the entirety of Obama’s presidency, and when Pelosi was in control of the House the president pushed the largest budget ever in the history of our country.”
Pelosi also said deficit reduction and making Social Security and Medicare sustainable should be separate discussions. Any savings achieved by those programs should be cycled back to aid their solvency, she said.
The programs, Pelosi added, must not be regarded as an ATM “to give tax cuts to corporations sending jobs overseas because we don’t want to stop that in order to reduce the deficit.”
Luján said Americans won’t stand for harsh cuts in social programs.
“That’s why we’re going to be able to see us be able to live up to these commitments and stand up for real Americans,” he said.
Jose D. Medina, who attended the event, told the Journal he’s worried his Social Security and Medicare benefits may take a hit.
Medina, 87, said he’s had several medical problems and scrapes by on a small income of Social Security and supplementary insurance. He and his partner pool their Social Security to make ends meet, he said.
“I’m lucky to have Medicare helping me and the supplementary insurance. Otherwise, I would be living on the streets,” Medina said.
For Henry Zamora, 85, it was Pelosi’s words on jobs that most resonated.
Republicans “don’t want to give any jobs to the people,” said Zamora, a World War II veteran.
“I want the Democrats to go out around the nation and demand, ‘We need new jobs,’ ” he said.