Multimillionaire Lobbyist Suggests Slashing Health Benefits For Vulnerable Americans To Reduce The Deficit

During his annual “State of American Business” address on Thursday, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue — who made $4.7 million in 2010 alone — called for lawmakers to tackle America’s long-term budget woes by enacting legislation that would slash entitlement spending on Medicare and Medicaid, the public insurance programs that provide coverage for America’s poor and elderly populations.

At the beginning of his remarks, Donohue asked whether America had “the leaders to put the country first, ahead of their own careers, politics, ideologies and egos” by controlling the growth of entitlements — which, in Donohue’s case, is really a euphemism for cutting health benefits:

Donohue said that restraining entitlement spending and overhauling the tax code would be part of the Chamber’s broader push to expand economic growth and the labor market, an agenda that also touches on energy development, immigration issues, trade and regulations.

The focus on debt and deficits signals something of a shift for the Chamber, which supported President Obama’s stimulus package and has long made job growth a signature issue. But Donohue said Thursday that putting the U.S. on firmer fiscal ground would play a big role in allowing the private sector to do its part to help spur growth. […]

The Chamber president said that Medicare, Medicaid and other U.S. entitlement programs were “unsustainable” and had come to dominate American spending.

While Donohue and the Chamber were happy to lobby the Obama Administration for pro-growth, deficit-increasing measures such as the stimulus when the economy was in free-fall, Donohue seems to want to pass the burden of austerity onto everyday Americans now that business growth has stabilized. Donohue’s prescription for clear-eyed deficit reduction through entitlement and tax “reform” did not also extend to raising tax rates on corporations or the wealthy, even though corporate profits are currently at an all-time high while corporate taxes have plummeted. Meanwhile, Americans have been forced to cut back on their health care spending as a result of the recent economic downturn.

With his call for entitlement cuts, Donohue joins a long line of business executives and conservative lawmakers striving to balance the budget on the backs of America’s most vulnerable citizens — even though expanding, not contracting, public health care programs is a much more efficient way to reduce total health care costs and average entitlement spending.