Yes, Every Republican Menaces Social Security -- Including De Santis And Trump

Yes, Every Republican Menaces Social Security -- Including De Santis And Trump

Former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, left

Republicans hate Social Security. From the very dawn of America's most popular and successful government program in 1935, Republicans have always hated Social Security. It is a hatred felt not by ordinary Republican voters — many of whom are elderly and rely on the program for survival — but by Republican elected officials and especially the corporate titans who finance them.

Yet since even their own base tends to strongly support Social Security, Republican politicians have habitually lied to conceal their seething contempt. They've practiced that same deception for many, many years. But now, engaging in debate with President Joe Biden over the Republican record on Social Security (and its sister program Medicare), they risk exposing what they endeavored so long to hide.

Inconveniently for them, the record is clear, unambiguous and damning.

Republican officials and the corporate lobbies associated with their party have played a double game on Social Security that dates back at least two decades, when they made an abortive attempt under President George W. Bush to "privatize" the program. The public rejected Bush's scheme to let Wall Street banks siphon away Social Security revenue into private investment accounts — and didn't buy their argument that destroying the program would somehow "save" it.

Bad rhetorical habits have damaged Republican credibility on the issue. From one side of their mouths, they denounce Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme"; from the other side, they promise to "strengthen and shore up" the program that they just described as criminal. Why would anyone believe such doubletalk?

Unlike most Republican politicians, former President Donald Trump understands that attacking Social Security is usually ruinous for his party, which was why he stood apart from the rest of them on the issue during the 2016 presidential primary — and why he's doing the same thing in this cycle. While he encouraged congressional Republicans in their dangerous "debt ceiling chicken" game, he warned them not to touch a penny of Social Security or Medicare.

But we also know Trump lies constantly — except when disparaging his Republican opponents — and this is no exception. When he was president, every Trump budget included deep cuts to Social Security (which Democrats in Congress discarded). During the 2020 campaign, he promised "entitlement" cuts and vowed to end the payroll tax that funds Social Security and Medicare.

Trump is right about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, whom he accuses of wanting to cut Social Security. While DeSantis is no policy intellectual, despite his Ivy League pedigree, he has dutifully repeated the GOP talking points to urge cuts from his first day serving in Congress. So did Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who shares his itch to challenge Trump. Meanwhile, Mike Pence has forthrightly endorsed privatization, reducing his already nil chance of nomination below zero.

And we can expect Republicans to continue savaging each other with gleeful hypocrisy on this issue.

Last year, Florida Sen. Rick Scott infuriated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell when he proposed to "sunset" Social Security and Medicare (which Scott looted to get rich). Today, Scott denies what his 11-point "plan" plainly stated, and McConnell denies that Republicans want to gut those programs. Both are audaciously deceptive.

You see, Scott's proposal enraged McConnell for a simple reason. In 2018, the GOP leader had learned the hard way what happened after he talked too loudly about his desire to slash Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid "entitlements." So, four years later, he just wanted the notorious Medicare fraudster to shut up, which Scott refused to do.

No, it isn't easy to find Republican elected officials who honestly support Social Security and Medicare. Although Speaker Kevin McCarthy says cutting the programs is "off the table," there is ample reason to believe he really wants those cuts. His choices to chair tax-writing and budget committees have said cutting "entitlements" is their top priority — even as they accused Biden of lying when he mentioned that simple fact.

Why do Republicans hate Social Security? It doesn't matter. What does matter is that they unanimously oppose the equitable solution to any future shortfall in Social Security funds — which requires nothing more than a minor permanent increase in the payroll tax for those at the highest income level.

Biden owned the Republicans in the House chamber at the State of the Union address, when their jeering ended in a standing ovation for his call to protect Social Security from any cuts. That was when they began to dig a deep hole again — and Democrats can only hope they will never stop.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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