CEDAR RAPIDS – Here’s the message Democrats are sending during as the presidential campaign heats up:
Iowans, especially the elderly, are increasingly “terrified” by suggestions from 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls that government spending, including entitlement programs, will be cut.
“It’s real fear. The fear is running rampant,” said Noreen Tonkin, a retired first responder who works with the elderly in Cedar Rapids.
She made her comments during what Rep. Tyler Olson, D-Cedar Rapids, and an early supporter of Barack Obama four years ago, called an “informal discussion of the extreme out-of-touch positions” of the Republicans seeking their party’s nomination for president.
“I kind of feel like we’re watching a tape of history,” Olson said, “because the solutions put out by the GOP candidates are the same tired solutions they’ve been pushing for past 10 years. They have no new answers.”
Tonkin said the fear of losing Social Security and Medicare is big among seniors. She objected to proposals to reduce entitlement spending.
“I don’t consider them an entitlement. I am entitled to them because I paid for them out of every paycheck all of my life,” Tonkin said. “I paid into them dearly for my entire working life with faith the money would be there.”
“These are social contracts,” Olson said. “To hear Republicans talk, you haven’t paid anything and we’re just handing out money.”
The event was billed as a round-table on the “disastrous GOP agenda in advance of the Aug. 11 GOP debate and Aug. 13 straw poll in Ames,” according to Iowa Democratic Party staffer Megan Jacobs. The party invited a panel of eight party members representing various groups who Democrats say could be impacted negatively by a GOP president to have a focused discussion to make clear to Iowans that the support the GOP budget plans – both the so-called Ryan plan and “cut, cap and balance” – would be disastrous for middle-class and low-income Iowans.
Coffee shop owner and former state legislator Art Staed praised business incentives, including allowing businesses to deduct up to 35 percent of the cost of providing health care coverage this year and 50 percent next year.
Although his business doesn’t make enough profit to offer employees health care coverage, Staed said a 100 percent deduction for replacing equipment such as his the espresso machine – “the bread-and-butter of our business” – was a real and direct help.
“Those are the kind of incentives the president has been looking at that would help business and create jobs,” said Staed, who again is running for a seat in the Iowa Legislature.
Educator Helane Golden said Republican plans to eliminate the Department of Education will be disastrous. Schools are underfunded now and cannot withstand deeper cuts, she said.
“It’s really naïve to think we can education without money,” she said. “That’s something a teacher with all the passion in the world can’t do.”
More funding is needed so schools aren’t trying to teach hungry children, class sizes can be reduced and families don’t have to buy school supplies.
“We just can’t do our jobs without proper support,” Golden said.
Andrea Nemecek, a Grinnell College sophomore and Cedar Rapids native who worked to help get Obama’s health care reforms passed, called GOP candidates’ plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act “shocking.”
Her family has benefited directly from changes, including no caps on benefits and no exclusions for pre-existing conditions, she said. As a college student, Nemecek is especially pleased with the provision that allows her to stay on her parents’ health insurance plan until she is 26.
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