U.S. Representative Janice Schakowsky (D-9) is offering hope to Democrats who saw their party take a drubbing in November.
Speaking to New Trier Township Democrats, Schakowsky said she sees the progressive message spreading this summer with the same kind of populist appeal that led to the uprising of the Tea Party in 2009.
“Did you know that 25 percent of the Tea Partiers voted for Obama?,” said Schakowsky, addressing New Trier Democrats at the Winnetka Community House this weekend.
The Tea Party’s message, she noted, resonated with those disillusioned by job losses and government spending and fearful of health care reforms that had been demonized by Republicans.
“I understand their sense of insecurity that something is wrong with America, don’t you?,” said Schakowsky, striking a more conciliatory tone than she did during the 2010 campaign, when she labeled her opponent a right-wing Tea Party supporter.
Speaking to the New Trier group Sunday, Schakowsky cited things that infuriate Tea Party members and Democrats, like corporations that pay no income taxes but receive billions of dollars in tax credits. “Tea Partiers hate that, and we should as well.”
A new Congressional map awaiting the signature of Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn will expand the 9th Congressional District’s reach into New Trier Township, where voters have tilted Democratic or Republican, depending on the election and the candidates.
Currently, only a portion of southwest Wilmette is within Schakowsky’s district. Under the new map, all of New Trier Township except Glencoe will fall within the 9th Congressional District, which also will take on some Republican-leaning areas in the northwest suburbs.
The Democratic-controlled map is aimed at regaining ground lost to Republicans in the 2010 midterm election, and adjusting for Illnois loss of one Congressional seat following the 2010 census.
Schakowsky said it’s important that Democrats not let self-professed Republican moderates “weasel out” of the positions they took this spring when they voted in favor of the 2012 House Budget put forth by Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin), chair of the House Budget Committee.
That budget blueprint, which isn’t expected to pass the Senate, would change Medicare to a voucher program starting in 2022 and provide states with smaller Medicaid block grants.
“When you have an opportunity to vote on something and register your support ... that is where you stand. We shouldn’t entertain any kind of excuses or amplification,” she said.
Schakowsky is most worried about proposed changes to Medicaid, which could limit funds for nursing home patients who have exhausted their personal assets.
“Sorry, Mrs. Goldberg, but Medicaid has been cut and a cap has been put on how much we can spend,” she said, describing the way the Medicaid changes might play out down the road. “It is just unthinkable.”
The Congresswoman said Democrats have a chance to win the 10th Congressional District seat of U.S. Representative Robert Dold. The district has been redrawn to reach the Wisconsin border and take in areas of central and west Lake County.
Schakowsky, who has represented the 9th Congressional District since 1999, laid out her platform for reducing the nation’s deficit, which includes reductions in defense spending and new tax brackets for millioniares and billionaires. While the highest wage earners are currently taxed at 35 percent for income over $353,000, her proposal would set a 45 percent rate for income over $1 million and rise to 49 percent for income over $1 billion.
Even those rates, she said, are “lower than the highest tax brackets during the Reagan administration,” she said. “So I am hiding behind my model, Ronald Reagan. He is my authority on this,” she said, eliciting chuckles from the audience.
“I would argue that the bigger problem, even bigger than the deficit and the debt, is income inequality in the United States of America,” said Schakowsky, noting the top one-tenth of one percent of Americans control more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. “We have a disappearing middle class,” she said, drawing spontaneous applause.
Giving hope to Democrats, Schakowsky said the tables have turned from the summer of 2009, when angry constituents showed up to express worries about health care reform. This summer, Republicans are being greeted with seniors carrying placards reading, “Hands Off My Medicare”.
“They could demonize something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Schakowsky. “But trying to demonize something that people already have in their hand, like Medicare and Social Security, is a whole other thing.”