Albuquerque Journal

10 reasons Republican­s will cut Social Security, Medicare

- BY ROBERT B. REICH FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF LABOR TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, AMERICAN VOICES Robert Reich is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Read more at https://robertreic­

Speaker Kevin McCarthy said last week that Republican­s will not call for cuts in Social Security or Medicare as they wheel and deal over the debt ceiling. He has promised to take Social Security and Medicare cuts “off the table.”

Here are 10 reasons why you shouldn’t believe him:

1. It’s incredibly difficult to cut federal spending without touching Social Security and Medicare. Social Security and Medicare together comprise over a third of the federal budget. Everything else — except defense, which is a sixth of the budget — is tiny by comparison.

2. Republican­s don’t want to cut defense, but they haven’t said what they’d cut other than Social Security, Medicare and defense.

3. A number of senior Republican­s in the House — including Reps. Jason Smith of Missouri, Jodey Arrington of Texas, Buddy Carter of Georgia and Lloyd Smucker of Pennsylvan­ia — have said they view the debt ceiling as a “leverage point” to extract concession­s from Democrats, including potentiall­y raising the retirement age and reducing Social Security benefits.

4. Several Republican­s who will serve on the House Budget Committee have explicitly said they plan to take aim at Social Security and Medicare. Carter said, “Our main focus has got to be on nondiscret­ionary — it’s got to be on entitlemen­ts.”

5. In an appearance on Fox News, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, defended his party’s plans for “shoring up” Medicare and Social Security — using the false talking point that they are in a “crisis.” I used to be a trustee of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds and still keep up with the reports, and I can assure you they’re not in danger of running out of money.

6. The Republican Study Committee released a proposal last year calling for the retirement age to be raised to 70, for means-testing Social Security benefits, and for partially privatizin­g Social Security.

7. Last April, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, chair of the Senate Republican­s’ campaign arm, issued a multipoint manifesto calling for ending funding for Social Security, Medicare and other so-called “nondiscret­ionary” programs every five years, unless a congressio­nal majority explicitly voted to renew them. Scott’s plan would also “force Congress to issue a report every year telling the public what they plan to do when Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt,” a reference to the assumed, and inaccurate, depletion of its trust funds in a few years.

8. Prominent Republican­s continue to devise plans to burden Social Security. Marco Rubio of Florida recently proposed financing parental leave by having working parents borrow payments from their future Social Security benefits. If a parent died before “paying back” their benefits, their heirs would be forced to pay it from what remained of the parent’s estate.

9. Republican­s have hated Social Security since its inception in 1935 and Medicare since it began in 1965. They called FDR a “socialist” for passing Social Security. They called Lyndon Johnson a “socialist” for passing Medicare. Before Medicare was created, Ronald Reagan warned of the existentia­l dangers of “socialized medicine.”

10. Their opposition to these programs has not been merely ideologica­l. They have been horrified at how popular these programs are with the public and how much the public relies on them — thereby justifying government activism for the benefit of average working people. Which is why former Speaker Newt Gingrich wanted Medicare “to wither on the vine,” why former President George W. Bush privatized parts of Medicare and sought to privatize Social Security, and why former Speaker Paul Ryan proposed annual budgets to turn Medicare into a voucher program and privatize Social Security.

Be warned.

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