September 29, 2022

[Above, March 2022, Rick Scott and Mitt Romney definitely suggest cuts to Social Security and Medicare in a hearing with Biden's Budget Director, Shalanda Young. -- eds.]

The major newspapers are at it again, pooh-poohing Democrats’ warnings about what Republicans plan to do when and if they gain the power to do it. Once upon a time, that journalistic sneering was aimed at Democrats warning that Republicans would overturn Roe v. Wade and ban abortion if they got the chance. Now it’s about Social Security and Medicare.

According to Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, it’s a flatly false claim to say that Republicans “plan to end Social Security and Medicare,” because only some Republicans are calling for policies that would end Social Security and Medicare. They claim those policies would strengthen the programs, about which we should definitely take them at their word. According to another Post headline, President Joe Biden “stokes fears” about Republicans and Social Security and Medicare when he … talks about what Republicans say they want to do to the programs. In The New York Times, we learn that Biden “insisted” Republicans want to cut the programs.

Biden quotes Republicans and we’re told he’s stoking fears and insisting they’ll do a thing that it’s strongly implied to outright said that they won’t do. Again, you have only to look at the very recent history of abortion policy in this country to decide how believable the media’s claims that Republicans won’t do this are.

Here’s where Republicans are on this: Sen. Rick Scott wants to require all federal legislation and funding—including Social Security and Medicare—to sunset, or expire, every five years unless Congress affirmatively renews it. Bear in mind here that every time Congress has to pass a bill to continue funding the government, we come right to the brink of a government shutdown. Or go over the brink. Republicans take hostages, they demand cuts, they force essential legislation to expire to try to get their way. Now apply that process to Social Security and Medicare every. Five. Years.

Sen. Ron Johnson takes that approach to the next level: He wants Social Security and Medicare to be part of the annual budget, requiring a vote every year to keep them funded. So every time Congress brought the government to within days of a shutdown, every senior in the country relying on Social Security and Medicare would have to worry that this time their check wouldn’t come or their medical care wouldn’t be covered. Johnson also wants to put Social Security funds in the stock market, subjecting it to the ups and downs of the economy. The Republican Study Committee budget, endorsed by 158 House Republicans, calls for privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age. The House Republican Twitter account recently retweeted an op-ed by Rep. Jodey Arrington arguing that “we must begin addressing the real debt drivers – mandatory spending programs.” Translation: Social Security and Medicare.

There’s also a longer history here, which Dean Obeidallah recently sketched out at MSNBC. “In 1994, when Republicans, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, took control of the House for the first time in 40 years, one of their top priorities was gutting Medicare. And the next year, with Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, they voted to cut $270 billion in Medicare funding to finance a tax cut that would primarily benefit upper income taxpayers,” he wrote. That’s not all. In 2005, Republicans, led by then-President George W. Bush, made a push to privatize Social Security, a push defeated by a huge public outcry. More than a decade later, as speaker of the House, Paul Ryan proposed privatizing Medicare. Donald Trump’s 2020 budget called for $800 billion in cuts to Medicare over 10 years.

”Fact checkers” like Glenn Kessler want to make Republican talk about gutting Social Security and Medicare into a matter of one or two rogue senators running their mouths, but the reality is that these plans wouldn’t keep coming up if Republicans didn’t really mean it. The 2005 experience convinced many of them that they needed to dress up their plans in gauzy language, sure, but the basic goal hasn’t changed.

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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