Evidence Piling Up Of GOP Efforts To Cut Social Security And Medicare

Evidence Piling Up Of GOP Efforts To Cut Social Security And Medicare

Sen. Mike Lee

After calling out some members of the Republican Party for trying to cut entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare in his State of the Union speech, President Joe Biden is being labeled a liar by the party and right-wing media. Mainstream media's exhaustive reporting on the GOP trying to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits should serve to fact-check anyone who says otherwise.

During his 2023 State of the Union address, Biden noted, “Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans — some Republicans — want Medicare and Social Security to sunset.” Despite their decadeslong war against Social Security and other entitlements, Republicans dubiously claim they have no intention of going after these programs. Right-wing media responded aggressively to the speech, with figures like The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro and Newsmax's Sean Spicer calling Biden's comments “demagogic lies” and a “total flop of a moment," respectively. Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich labeled Biden’s comment an “attempt to attack the Republicans on Medicare and Social Security” that was “totally dishonest.”

Multiple GOP politicians — some of whom said Biden’s claim was a lie — have been on the record pushing legislation that would cut entitlement programs or have stated their opposition to the programs in their entirety. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for the age eligibility of Social Security to be raised while Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) has pushed a plan that would require these programs to be reauthorized by Congress every five years. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who expressed indignation at Biden’s comments regarding entitlement programs, has remarked that it is his “objective to phase out Social Security.”

Some in the mainstream media also attempted to downplay the GOP’s past, and likely future, attempts to cut entitlement programs. On CNN, conservative pollster Frank Luntz said it was “dishonest” and “provocative” for Biden to say that Republicans want to “sunset” Social Security (host Kaitlan Collins pushed back on Luntz, referencing Scott’s proposed legislation). Additionally, ABC’s Jonathan Karl said that Biden’s remarks were inaccurate, falsely claiming that “there’s nobody seriously talking about sunsetting Social Security in the Republican Party.”

The GOP’s intention and attempts to cut Social Security and other entitlement programs have been extensively documented by mainstream media for over a decade. This reporting undermines the right’s argument that Democrats and the left are lying about the GOP’s desire to slash these programs. Here are some examples:

  • Back in 2011, The Cap Timespublished a piece exposing the GOP’s attempt to force concessions on entitlement reform using the debt ceiling: “But then the American people caught wind of [then-House Budget Committee chair Paul] Ryan’s ‘entitlement reform’ scheme and quickly recognized that it would end Medicare, along with retirement security, for most Americans.”
  • McClatchy wrote an article in 2013 titled “Sen. Mitch McConnell says Medicare, Social Security must change to fix U.S. debt,” noting, “McConnell, speaking to several hundred people during Commerce Lexington's Public Policy Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, said those changes should include raising eligibility ages over time.”
  • In 2016, HuffPost illustrated that the GOP has camouflaged its attempts to slash Social Security by using vague language and ambiguous policy proposals: “The Republican Party platform doesn’t say how it would reform the program, and claims ‘all options should be considered.’ But as Social Security Works points out, the GOP clearly supports benefit cuts, since the platform later rules out tax hikes.”
  • The Intercept released an article in 2017 titled “Senate Republicans Are Coming For Medicare And Medicaid, This Time Through Tax Reform,” noting that Democrats said the GOP’s 2018 proposed budget would result in Medicaid being cut by $1 trillion and Medicare by $473 billion over 10 years.
  • Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik explained that McConnell made the GOP’s intentions clear after he blamed entitlements for the national debt in multiple 2018 interviews: “Mitch McConnell says it out loud: Republicans are gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare next.”
  • In 2019, Vox called out then-President Donald Trump for cutting entitlement programs in his proposed budget, despite repeatedly saying he wouldn’t: “Trump said he wouldn’t cut Medicaid, Social Security, and Medicare. His 2020 budget cuts all 3.”
  • Publishing an analysis in The Washington Spectator in 2020, professor of economics Steven Pressman elucidated one way the GOP has gone after Social Security: “Republicans frequently suggest raising the age for collecting full benefits from 67 to 70. In practice, this means a 25 percent cut in benefits, or $375 less each month for an average Social Security recipient.”
  • In 2021, economist Christian Weller published an article in Forbes highlighting that multiple Republican senators had their eyes on cutting funds to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid: “Given that four of the five sponsors of this idea [to balance the budget] have signed on to the tax pledge to never, ever under any circumstances raise taxes, they are looking for programs to cut. They consequently take aim mainly at cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”
  • The Hill published an opinion piece in 2021 explaining that Sen. Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) proposed legislation would create a “back-door approach to cut Americans’ earned benefits”: “This is nothing more than a back-door mechanism for enacting cuts to seniors’ earned benefits that wouldn’t otherwise be possible through the normal legislative process.”
  • In October 2022, Bloomberg Government published a bombshell report on the GOP’s planned attempt to weaponize the debt ceiling to force through cuts to entitlement programs: “The four Republicans interested in serving as House Budget Committee chairman in the next Congress said in interviews that next year’s deadline to raise or suspend the debt ceiling is a point of leverage if their party can win control of the House in the November midterm elections.”
  • Truthout analyzed now-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) October 2022 interview with Punchbowl News, explaining that McCarthy likely intends to use the debt ceiling to force concessions on entitlement programs: “When McCarthy refers to eliminating so-called waste, it is likely that he is referring to, among other things, the GOP’s plans to cut Medicare and Social Security, two of the most popular and vital anti-poverty government programs in the U.S.”
  • In early 2023, The Washington Post published an article titled “House GOP eyes Social Security, Medicare amid spending battle,” noting: “Others in the party have resurfaced more detailed plans to cut costs, including by raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, targeting younger Americans who have yet to obtain federal benefits.”
  • After Biden's speech, the Post assessed potential 2024 GOP presidential candidates’ past positions on Social Security, noting “several” of them “have a history of embracing cuts": The piece mentioned Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Trump, writing: “Fiscal conservatives have fought Social Security and Medicare since their inception as crowning achievements of Democratic presidents, and rising national debt has intensified calls for overhauling the programs in recent decades. But charting a new course for entitlements has also long proved a graveyard for Republican ambitions.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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