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Monday, December 09, 2019

Social Security

Sen. Mike Lee

Youtube Screenshot

Fox News host Sean Hannity has to know better than to ever start a sentence with what Republicans would never do. They’ve already proven, they’ll do anything, say anything, to get elected. Before Hannity could even form his mouth to allege on his show Tuesday that “not a single Republican” has ever said “they want to take away your Social Security and Medicare and cut it,” a video of Sen. Mike Lee of Utah saying exactly that in his 2010 campaign had already emerged on social media.

“It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it,” Lee said in the video. "People who advise me politically always tell me that's dangerous, and I tell them, in that case, it's not worth my running. That's why I'm doing this, to get rid of that. Medicare and Medicaid are of the same sort and need to be pulled up.”

When The Daily Herald gave Lee the opportunity to clarify the statement, he relied on the ever-popular criminal defense of "I don't recall."

“So I don’t, I don’t recall ever having advocated for dismantling those—that’s sensitive stuff,” Lee told the Utah newspaper. “And I don’t I don’t recall advocating for dismantling them. I vaguely remember a time in 2010 when we were talking about a bunch of things.”

Lee rambled on in an attempt to defend himself, but the more he talked, the more assurance he seemed to give voters that he meant those words uttered more than a decade ago.

Lee claimed he was talking about a “need to end” what he dubbed a “pattern of the federal government occupying space that it wasn’t intended to occupy and spending too much money.”

“Perhaps that was close in time and in proximity to another conversation about Social Security, but I don’t remember ever in any time since I first became a candidate for the Senate ever saying, ‘No, we just have to end Social Security and uproot all the expectations of those who’ve paid into it,’” Lee said. “Quite to the contrary. As far as I can remember, every time I’ve spoken, I’ve said, ‘We do have problems with that,’ in part because, when it was created in the 1930s, it was sold to the American people as something that would be their property, it’s theirs. They have it, it’s just held, like in trust, in an account, by the government, in their name. It would always be their money.”

Lee said a “weird issue” arose when the U.S. Supreme Court decided in the 1937 Helvering v. Davis decision that Social Security “was a tax and therefore not private property.”

The decision Lee referenced maintains that Congress has the right to spend in the interest of “general welfare” without violating the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, which limits federal authority.

He claimed that his issues with the decision aside, "it’s a commitment that we’ve made to people who’ve paid into the system" and “in the case of those who were retirees” or “within a couple of decades even of retiring, you can’t pull that away.”

Lee conveniently left out of his statement any promise to uphold that commitment for those not quite as near retirement age.

He also advocated for increasing the retirement age. “You can’t create an abrupt adjustment to that without creating a lot of problems, but I’ve established a very slow transition toward increasing the retirement age and having it hover based on life expectancy at the time,” he told The Daily Herald.

Problem is, Lee has already proven to be a liar.

At long last, the 2022 midterms are almost here! With the battle for the House front and center, we give you a window into the key races on a final pre-election episode of The Downballot. We discuss a wide range of contests that will offer insight into how the night is going, including top GOP pickup opportunities, second-tier Republican targets, and the seats where Democrats are on offense. And with many vote tallies likely to stretch on for some time, we also identify several bellwether races in states that count quickly.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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Unemployment rate since 1945 by Democratic (blue) and Republican (red) presidential administrations

No delusion misleads American voters more than their certainty that Republicans are "better" and more worthy of "trust" on the economy than Democrats. Neither facts nor history support this durable fallacy, discredited by reams of studies over the years proving that Democratic administrations are consistently more successful in fostering economic growth, employment, family incomes, and nearly every other measure of prosperity — including reductions in the national debt.

That axiom has held true even when a Democratic president inherited the most miserable economic conditions from a Republican predecessor. It is certainly true of President Joe Biden, whose efforts to revive the United States from its pandemic slump have smashed records in the number of jobs created and sustained high employment. Inflation is beginning to abate, as are gas prices, and even so the latest quarterly data show renewed growth.

Yet because Americans are aggrieved over rising prices — and frightened by a potential recession — the mythology of Republican economic superiority now looms over the midterm elections. Evidently some voters aim to punish Biden for inflation by empowering his right-wing adversaries.

Before they do, perhaps they should ask how Republicans will exploit that enduring "trust" — and whether the result will be a "better" economy for them and their families. Based on past performance, and what Republican politicians themselves tell us, the only constituency that will see a better economy is the superrich.

In 2016, Donald Trump said he would close loopholes that allowed the very wealthy (including him) to avoid taxation. He also promised to erase the national debt and deficits in his first term. Instead, Trump and the Republicans in Congress passed an enormous tax cut that favored the wealthiest and inevitably exploded the deficit. Then the economy crashed.

Whatever their differences, that dismal Trump record is pretty much what George W. Bush achieved as president too. It is what Republicans always do.

Slashing taxes on the wealthy is what they yearn to do again — except that Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has added an even "better" idea: He wants to raise income taxes on poor and working families, who make too little money to pay that levy under current law.

If you're a middle-class or working-class voter, in fact, there is a familiar agenda of economic policies that you can "trust" the Republicans to promote, because they are the same policies that the reactionary party has endeavored to enact since forever. They have vowed yet again, for instance, to ruin Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which serve as economic bulwarks for most Americans. And once more they are threatening to weaponize negotiations over the national debt ceiling to ram through those destructive cuts.

Will that be "better" for the older and disabled Americans who depend on those programs, and their families? Probably not, but what could be even worse is the recklessness of Republicans who would abrogate the credit of the United States Treasury to complete that cruel mission. So determined are they to cancel the benefits that Americans spend a lifetime earning that they would jeopardize the entire nation's economic stability.

You can "trust" their commitment to such financial insanity, which they continue to proclaim in this campaign, because they have pursued the same catastrophic scheme dating back to the bad old days of Speaker Newt Gingrich.

You can also trust the Republicans to seek total repeal of Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan, because they attempted to zero out all the federal student loan programs (the opposite of what Trump promised). Would that work "better" for middle-class students and their families? Presumably not, but it's what they insist on — with no proposal to improve college affordability.

For them it is now a matter of principle to have no principles, no platform, no constructive program. Remember when Trump promised a beautiful new health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act with something better that would insure everyone at low cost? Of course you do, just as you remember "Infrastructure Week," which came and went and came and went like Groundhog Day (until Biden finally passed the landmark Infrastructure Act).

In power, the Republicans will take that same pernicious approach to every aspect of economic policy that might improve life for working families. Not only would they refuse to increase minimum wages — highly popular across party lines — but nearly every one of them rejects the very idea of a minimum wage. They would obstruct any effort to reduce the cost of prescription drugs — also very popular — and repeal the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act that are driving down those prices. They may still be too incompetent to repeal Obamacare, but that won't stop them from trying — and they will propose no "better" insurance plan to replace the health coverage they're so eager to strip away.

What you can assuredly trust the Republicans to do is what they always do. What you must never expect from them is anything better.

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