Cutting Medicare and Medicaid is the wrong way to balance the budget, speakers said Friday.
Republican plans to cut Medicare and Medicaid represent "wrong" priorities that will hurt low-income elderly and disabled people, local advocates for the aging said Friday at a forum.
"I think what you're seeing is a result of 12 years of government bashing ... and all the redneck talk show hosts," said Ardie Davis, older worker programs administrator for the Kansas Department of Aging.
"The only thing that's going to stop it is organization," he said.
Davis made the comments during a forum on aging issues Friday at Independence Inc., 1910 Haskell.
On Thursday, the Senate Budget Committee voted along party lines -- Republicans for and Democrats against -- to cut $250 billion from Medicare and $175 billion in Medicaid.
None of more than 20 people at the local forum, or panelists comprised of agency volunteers and retirees, said they favored the cuts.
"The small person needs some protection and that has to be set by the government," said Ed Dutton, chairman of the Douglas County Advocacy Council on the Aging.
Panel member Margot Gorden, a retired Kansas University professor of social welfare and member of the Older Women's League, said only 5.6 percent of older Americans have income of more than $50,000 a year, and that women 85 and older represent the poorest segment of society.
She said that some lobbying groups for older people advocate no tax increases for the elderly, even for those who have high incomes or wealth.
"Some of these groups want seniors to be able to keep everything, even if they already have a lot," she said. "I would say this falls into the 'greedy geezer' category." That term was coined a few years back, to describe rich, selfish older Americans, she said.
"People at a higher level of income or wealth ought to share in the burden" to balance the budget, Gorden said.
Panel member Dolores Justus, a volunteer at Independence Inc. and retired first-grade teacher, said there is some fraud in Medicare, like in most bureaucracies.
But she said the problem should be attacked, not the program's entire budget.
"As long as they have that (fraud), they're going to say it's all right to keep cutting Medicare," Justus said.
Dutton said the conservative political atmosphere in Washington represents a backlash of people's own insecurities.
"There always has to be a scapegoat -- someone to blame," he said, adding that currently, it's in vogue to bash recipients of government assistance.
"Right now, it's an illusion that these negative attitudes toward other groups of people are not harmful, but they are," Davis said.