Fitzpatrick blasts budget at town hall meeting

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-8th dist.) meets with constituents following a town hall meeting on June 9 at Community College of Philadelphia’s Northeast Regional Center.

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick said babies born in 2011 are victims of “intergenerational theft,” blaming some federal lawmakers for failing to rein in the budget deficit.

“We have to stop spending money we don’t have,” he said.

Fitzpatrick (R-8th dist.) held a town hall meeting last week at Community College of Philadelphia’s Northeast Regional Center, at 12901 Townsend Road.

Some town hall meetings across the country have been combative, but the June 9 gathering was civil.

Fitzpatrick praised CCP for its affordability and congratulated the college on its recent expansion. He attended the April 20 ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked a doubling in the size of the building and a commitment to energy efficiency.

A former Bucks County commissioner, Fitzpatrick was elected in 2004, but he lost two years later to Democrat Patrick Murphy. The Republican won back his seat in a rematch with Murphy last year.

The 8th Congressional District includes all of Bucks County, a small portion of eastern Montgomery County and the Far Northeast.

In Fitzpatrick’s opinion, the budget deficit and debt helped Republicans gain control of the House of Representatives in 2010.

This year’s projected deficit is $1.4 trillion. The nation’s overall debt has reached the legal limit of $14.3 trillion.

President Barack Obama and many Democrats want to increase the debt ceiling to $16.8 trillion, citing Aug. 2 as the date that the Department of the Treasury will be unable to borrow any more money.

The House voted on a ceiling-increase measure on May 31. The bill was rejected, 318–97, with 82 Democrats voting against it and another seven voting “present.” Even Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer were opposed.

Fitzpatrick scoffed at the “Armageddon predictions” made by some that the stock market would tumble if the debt ceiling were not raised in last month’s vote.

Many Republicans would accept an increase in the debt ceiling only if it was accompanied by significant spending cuts.

“We need to get our spending under control,” Fitzpatrick said.

The congressman believes that the debt and the interest paid on it threaten funding for energy, education and national defense programs.

Furthermore, Japan is America’s second-biggest lender, behind China, at about $908 billion. If Japan, which suffered a massive earthquake in March, asked for repayment to help rebuild its country, the United States would be in more economic trouble.

Fitzpatrick indicated that many people tell him that our nation would be on more sound financial footing if Congress eliminated earmarks and foreign aid, but those account for just 2.11 percent of the budget, he said.

A more significant dent in the deficit, he said, would be accomplished by Medicare reform, which is the key component of House Republicans’ so-called “Path to Prosperity.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee, is driving the issue.

Ryan claims that Medicare will go bankrupt by 2020. While Medicare will not change for beneficiaries or anyone age 55 and older, he proposes a voucher-like system that would enable future senior citizens to buy private medical insurance.

Democrats insist that the proposal would force seniors to pay more, but Republicans believe competition would reduce costs, much like it has done for Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit.

“We need to make some reforms,” said Fitzpatrick, who will turn 48 later this month.

Americans are living longer, and their medical bills are rising.

“Health-care costs are going through the roof,” Fitzpatrick said.

The failure to include tort reform in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — signed by President Barack Obama in March 2010 — was a “missed opportunity,” in Fitzpatrick’s view.

Too many doctors practice “defensive medicine,” he believes, because of a fear of being sued by patients or their families.

A colon cancer survivor, the lawmaker recalls having what he thought were duplicate tests performed during his treatment.

As an aside and in response to a woman’s statement that her relative was given tests he did not want, Fitzpatrick said he would like to see a national debate on the issue of living wills. In his work as a lawyer, he has prepared such documents for people.

Fitzpatrick’s overall goal is to be part of an effort to create an economic atmosphere that will lead to job creation.

Most people in the crowd reacted favorably to Fitzpatrick’s slide presentation, though a woman wearing a Planned Parenthood shirt challenged him on many statements and even rushed up to the overhead projector to point out on a slide that tax hikes can help lower the budget deficit.

A man in the crowd said he wants to see lawmakers increase the tax on long-term capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent, a statement met with derision.

“You can send more money in,” another man told him.

Fitzpatrick opposes tax hikes. He pointed out that revenues have gone up when presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan have lowered, not increased, tax rates. ••

Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215–354–3034 or twaring@bsmphilly.com