Democrats (particularly Democrats over 35) who are tired of hearing Democratic President Obama praise Republican icon Ronald Reagan as a "transformative political leader," would have enjoyed US Sen. Patty Murray's (D-WA) speech at the YWCA in downtown Seattle on Friday for her take on just how she thought Reagan had transformed the country.

Murray blamed Reagan for the current intransigent Republicans who "have organized around the article of faith articulated by President Reagan and repeated by members of his party again and again since: that government is not the solution to our problem, government is our problem."[pullquote]Democrats (particularly Democrats over 35) who are tired of hearing Democratic President Obama praise Republican icon Ronald Reagan as a "transformative political leader," would have enjoyed US Sen. Patty Murray's (D-WA) speech at the YWCA in downtown Seattle on Friday.[/pullquote]

Murray, who was speaking at a packed noon forum of local social service agencies about the upcoming federal budget debate, had just finished talking about how food stamps, the VA, worker training programs, and student loans helped her struggling family when she was growing up in Bothell in the 1950s and 60s.

Her anecdote—about her her mom's heavy lift to raise her family while caring for her ill father, a WWII vet who had multiple sclerosis—framed Murray's budget battle preview: The Republicans, she said, citing last year's debt limit stalemate as evidence, want to balance the federal budget entirely with cuts to social programs rather than considering also using taxes on the wealthy being pitched by Democrats.
I don’t believe government can or should solve every problem—of course it shouldn’t. But I feel very strongly that we are a nation that’s come together time and again to stand with families like mine. To invest in our people, our communities, our future—to prevent people from falling through the cracks—and to make sure every child growing up today has the opportunities they deserve.

Unfortunately, the belief that our government can be a positive force for the middle class and the most vulnerable Americans is not shared by everyone in our nation’s capital.

These lawmakers don’t seem to believe that government should offer a helping hand to the middle class. They don’t seem to believe government should provide a robust safety net to catch the most vulnerable among us and help them get back on their feet. They don’t seem to believe government should focus on investing in our nation’s future by building roads and bridges, improving education—and spurring research and innovation.

Their primary focus seems to be: slashing programs, ending middle class supports—and above all else—cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations.

So despite the fact that poll after poll makes clear that the American people overwhelmingly support a balanced approach that includes revenue. And despite the fact that federal revenue is at the lowest level in 60 years—and the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest rates in generations. My counterparts on the other side fought tooth and nail to protect the rich from paying a penny more in taxes—they held to that position all the way to the end—and that was what prevented us from getting a deal.

I believe we should close the tax loopholes for the oil and gas companies before we close off access to programs so many people here in Seattle and across our state depend on.  We should cut off subsidies for private jets and yachts before we cut off the health care coverage for children and families. And we should finally put an end to the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires that have blown holes in our budget year after year before we put an end to critical investments in education and worker training.

Last year's failure to reach a compromise was coupled with a default plan known as "sequestration," which calls for nearly half a billion dollars in cuts to both defense and social service programs in January 2013, a bitter pill that was supposed to motivate  Republicans (who traditionally frown on military cuts) and Democrats (typecast as bleeding hearts who support social services) to come up with a better idea.

To stave off sequestration now, Congress is taking another pass at coming up with a budget deal; the House Republicans have already proposed forestalling the cuts to the Pentagon by cutting more from the social service side. And this morning, President Obama called for Bush's tax cuts for those making over $250,000 to expire.

For Murray's part, she's also framing the debate in D.C.

Late last month, she amended a US Sen. John McCain bill—which had called for an assessment of the impact of the $500 billion in DOD cuts—to similarly assess the impact that billions in social service cuts would have

Murray was praised by the NYT editorial page for amending McCain's bill:
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who has been worked up about the Pentagon cuts, recently proposed legislation requiring a detailed accounting of which military programs would be affected, and the impact on national security. Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, proposed a countermeasure that would require an accounting of the entire sequester. The two measures were combined and passed by the Senate on Thursday as an amendment to the farm bill.

Ms. Murray’s amendment asks all the right questions of the White House budget office: What precise programs will be cut? How many jobs will be lost? What will be the effect on students of education cuts, as well as the impact of reductions on middle-class families, public safety and economic growth? (Mr. McCain asked similar questions about the defense cuts.) These matters were never discussed when the sequester was first imposed after the irresponsible threat by Republicans to send the government into default if spending wasn’t reduced.

Meanwhile, the Washington, DC based Coalition on Human Needs issued a report in April, which Murray cited during her speech at the Y, estimating the impact of the social service cuts, including: knocking 75,000 children off Head Start; ending meals on wheels for 17,000 seniors; laying off  16,000 teachers; and cutting off heat and air conditioning assistance for  734,000 households.
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