Ohio Republican nominee J.D. Vance is framing himself in his campaign for Senate as an opponent of powerful "elites."
Meanwhile, in 2011 the author and venture capitalist embraced a controversial GOP budget proposal that would have slashed entitlement protections for poorer and older Americans, ending both Medicare and Medicaid as we know them while cutting taxes for himself and other wealthy elites.
In his writings, Vance did not openly use terms like "Medicare cuts," but embraced words like "reform" and "trim" in discussing the entitlement programs used by millions.
In a column published on April 5, 2011, on the FrumForum, a group blog edited by former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum that described itself as "dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican Party and conservative movement," Vance, under a previous surname taken from a stepfather, praised a budget proposal about to be released by then-House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI).
Ryan's proposed budget called for trillions of dollars to be cut from entitlement programs over a decade: repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the program commonly known as Obamacare that provides health insurance coverage for millions of Americans; transformation of Medicaid into a program funded through limited lump-sum grants to states, which would then manage it; and conversion of Medicare into a capped voucher program.
Robert Greenstein, president of the progressive-leaning nonprofit Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said at the time that Ryan's proposal was "a dramatic reverse-Robin-Hood approach that gets the lion's share of its budget cuts from programs for low-income Americans — the politically and economically weakest group in America and the politically safest group for Ryan to target— even as it bestows extremely large tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans."
"The plan contains $1.4 trillion in Medicaid cuts over ten years (which includes repeal of the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion); large cuts in food stamps, low-income housing, Pell Grants, and other programs for people with limited incomes; and repeal of the health reform law’s subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people purchase health insurance," Greenstein wrote.
Vance wrote of the proposal, "Early reports suggest that along with serious changes to Social Security and Medicare, the budget will trim nearly $4 trillion from the 10-year budget deficit. I don't know how the Left will react, but I'm confident that they'll overreact. And I'm hoping that when the dust settles, we're having a more intelligent conversation about spending cuts than we've had during my lifetime."
Vance added, "The way forward is as obvious as it is politically difficult: streamline the tax code, reform current entitlements and avoid enacting new ones."
On September 7 of that year, he authored a post endorsing former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination and explicitly praising him for supporting Ryan's budget and entitlement cuts.
"As governor, he enacted free-market health care reforms, balanced the budget, and thus far is the most public advocate of the Ryan plan to reduce long-term entitlement spending," Vance wrote. He dismissed another Republican candidate, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, as "a man with no serious plan to curb entitlement spending."
In a May 2022 column published in The Atlantic, Frum noted that in his 2011 collaborations with Vance, the Ohio Senate candidatee "endorsed cuts to the future growth of Medicare and Social Security" and lamented his subsequent evolution to full-throated support for former President Donald Trump.
"In a reversal of the usual political trajectory, Vance's writing and speaking have edged angrier and uglier as he has gained success and prominence," Frum wrote.
A Vance campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
While it is unclear whether he still backs massive entitlement cuts, as a candidate in 2022 Vance has criticized other government spending.
"The Biden administration has spent billions and billions of dollars on things we don't need," he says in the section of his campaign issues page focused on "spending and inflation."
Former President Trump, who has endorsed Vance, has a record of presenting himself as a defender of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid when it suits him.
As a 2016 presidential candidate, he said that he alone could preserve the entitlement programs without any cuts.
"Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," Trump said in an April 2015 address just before kicking off his White House bid. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."
"I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid," he tweeted the following month.
Republicans across the country continue to talk up ways to destroy longstanding entitlements.
Arizona Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon is running on a proposal to "save Social Security" by privatizing the program and raising the age at which people can access their benefits. Instead of every worker contributing to Social Security and getting a guaranteed payout at retirement or disability, Lamon proposes switching to a government-endorsed 401(k) pension account system as an "option for every worker to enjoy the benefit from investment in the US economy while also creating a tangible, inheritable asset for their children, instead of the government-controlled trust fund model."
Last month Blake Masters, the front-runner in the Republican primary for Senate in Arizona, told the right-wing group FreedomWorks, "Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."
New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Kevin Smith has also called for Social Security to be gradually transitioned "from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan."
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott, the man charged with winning back a Republican majority in the Senate, has proposed a controversial package of reforms that includes letting Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and every other federal program automatically expire every five years and require Congress to extend them. The Florida Republican said in March that it was the best way to force the nation "to stop and take the time to preserve those programs."
Reprinted with permission from American Independent.