Interviews

Lawmakers Fast to Protest Budget Cuts

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF"YOUR WORLD": Meantime, my next guest is taking part in a hunger strike to protest the spending cuts that did just pass the House, and the ones that Karl outlined.

Maryland Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards joins me right now.

Congresswoman, what are you going to do?

REP. DONNA EDWARDS, D-MD.: Well, it's actually a fast. And it's really to draw attention, along with a number of my colleagues, to the severe cuts that are happening with our school nutrition programs, our women, infant, and children programs.

I mean, this is a time when we actually need to invest in our children and making sure that they go to school not hungry, but fed, so that they can learn and be prepared for the future. And I think it's really irresponsible. That's part of the Republican budget that really just takes a sledgehammer to things that make a difference in people's lives.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Yes. But, I mean, Democrats participated in this cut as well, right, Congresswoman? So, I'm wondering...

EDWARDS: Well, this Democrat...

CAVUTO: Go ahead.

EDWARDS: This Democrat didn't.

CAVUTO: OK.

So, I'm just wondering, with that fast, how long do you continue it?  This thing is signed, sealed and done, almost.

EDWARDS: Well, I think each of us, as participants; have made a commitment to a day to a week to draw attention to this.

I've been a real advocate for school nutrition programs in my state and through my congressional district. And I feel really strongly about them, because, when a child goes to school hungry, he or she can't possibly learn. And so this really goes to our future.

Women, Infants and Children, it's a program that actually most governors believe works really well. And, so, rather than looking at these programs and what they do, we've just taken a sledgehammer to them in the Republican budget. And I think it's unacceptable.

CAVUTO: You just heard the CBO say it wasn't much of a sledgehammer, right?  I guess the reason why I raise it, Congresswoman, is I had one of your Democratic colleagues on this very show yesterday saying that was the same approach Republicans, or she said this cutting mentality, has to education.  We're denying investment in things that are vital to our future.

And the point I raised with her I want to raise with you. Investments are fine if you have the money, but we don't have the money. So beggars cannot be choosers, right?

EDWARDS: Well, that's not true.

We seem to have the money not to make any cuts in the defense budget.  I think that we could cut there.

CAVUTO: Fair enough.

EDWARDS: I think that we have -- we found the money to pay for Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya. I think that there are cuts that can be made that actually can sustain programs that make a difference in the lives of women and children.

CAVUTO: Well, you are quite right. But, ma'am, we have done it, right? And Republican and Democratic administrations alike have created this situation.

And you're right to point out that we have priorities that might or might not be mixed up, depending on your point of view. But we are where we are. Our debt is what it is. Our deficit at almost $1.3 trillion is what it is. So, we don't have options for Libya. We don't have options for what you want. We don't have options for education.

And until we get that under control, we cannot do any of that.

EDWARDS: Well, we do have...

CAVUTO: Isn't the better part of valor to focus on getting out of debt, get out of the deficit, so we can target the moneys you quite properly feel should be targeted to bigger causes?

EDWARDS: Well, as you have indicated, I, in fact, think we do have options. We have the option to eliminate a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans that's going to cost us $1 trillion. That's an option that we have not taken. That's an option that wasn't taken in the Republican budget.

CAVUTO: But even if we lifted the top tier to 100 percent, even if we took 100 percent of their money, all of it, we would still; we would still have a deficit that would be reduced by half what it is, now, maybe $700 billion, $750 billion.

So you can only get so far just hiking people's taxes up the yin-yang, right?

EDWARDS: Well, $1.3 trillion -- a trillion dollars is actually what that would take. And I mean there is no excuse for lowering tax rates, for example, from 35 percent to 25 percent. This is a path to prosperity...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Well, you are talking about Paul Ryan's budget. 

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You are talking about Paul Ryan's budget.

EDWARDS: I'm talking about the Ryan budget.

CAVUTO: OK.

EDWARDS: I am.

CAVUTO: The one that also calls for removing a lot of the gimmicks and budgetary games and tax credits and write-offs that, if it were removed, it wouldn't be as low as it appears, but it would be a cleaner tax cut.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Well, look, economist Mark Zandi today, just a little while ago, came out with an estimate that said that the Republican budget would - - for 2012 would actually cost 1.7 million jobs, in addition to decimating and ending Medicare. And so I think these are options that the American people just won't stand for.

CAVUTO: Why do you say decimating and ending Medicare?

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: Well, it will.

CAVUTO: Well, but if you provide people with an alternative to a system that bleeds money, and gives them an option to choose other things, and they could stay in Medicare, why is it already the knee-jerk reaction it will be devastating? Why don't you even entertain it?

EDWARDS: It's not a knee-jerk reaction. It is the fact that it would be a transfer of an insurance guarantee for Medicare over to insurance companies.

CAVUTO: But, Congresswoman, do you know what he's proposing? Do you know what he's proposing?

EDWARDS: Our seniors don't want to stand for that. And that is what the Republican budget calls for. It would decimate Medicare.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Do you know what he is proposing?

EDWARDS: I know exactly what he is proposing. And I think that seniors ought to know that the Republican budget would clean out Medicare guarantee for them. And it's not acceptable. And most Americans, whether they're Democrats or Republicans, don't believe that.

CAVUTO: So, an $8,000 credit for them to choose their own coverage that might be better is instantly evil and destructive?

EDWARDS: You know, I'll tell you something. $8,000, if you have a preexisting condition if you're a senior, doesn't mean anything when you have to go shopping on the private insurance market.

That's not what our seniors have bargained for in Medicare. It's not the guarantee that we've been promised for the last 46 years of Medicare.  And the American public won't find that it's acceptable.

CAVUTO: We cannot afford our promises. Ma'am, we cannot afford our promises.

EDWARDS: Well, what we can't afford is to turn over all of our wealth to the wealthiest Americans in this country. That's what we cannot afford.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Do you think that argument is getting old? Do you think that argument's getting old? 

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: They need to pay their fair share. 

CAVUTO: They pay half the taxes in this country.

(CROSSTALK)

EDWARDS: You know what? It is not old for middle-income people, who have been really just stripped of their futures, of -- stripped of their retirement, stripped of their earning power, stripped of jobs. That's not an old argument at all for them.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: The rich are to blame for that, right? 

EDWARDS: Well, all I have to say is that there are some people who are getting wealthier, and there are others who are not. And that is the middle class. And we are not going to allow seniors to suffer as a result.

CAVUTO: Gotcha. Thank you, Congresswoman.

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