Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) has suggested that he believes federal programs like Medicare and Social Security should be included in annual budget discussions; an initiative that could ultimately threaten to impact the lives of millions of benefit recipients.
On Tuesday, August 2, the Republican lawmaker made his remarks during an appearance on "The Regular Joe Show." During the discussion, show host Joe Giganti asked Johnson about the PACT Act — which was passed to provide aid for veterans who suffered from exposure to toxic burn pits — as well as the debates surrounding discretionary and mandatory spending.
The Wisconsin lawmaker, who is currently campaigning for a third Senate term, admitted that he seeks to shift the full federal budget toward discretionary spending. The proposed change would include Social Security and Medicare, programs he believes need to be re-evaluated and restructured.
"Defense spending has always been discretionary," Johnson said. "VA spending is discretionary. What's mandatory are things like Social Security and Medicare. If you qualify for the entitlement you just get it no matter what the cost. And our problem in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It's on automatic pilot. It never ... you just don't do proper oversight. You don't get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt. It's just on automatic pilot.
"What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so that it's all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken that are going to be going bankrupt," he said.
Johnson also insisted that "as long as things are on automatic pilot we just continue to pile up debt, mortgage our kids' future, this massive debt burden, combined with this massive deficit spending that sparked this inflation that's wiping out people's wage gains, making it impossible for them to make ends meet. Again, this didn't just happen."
"The fact that you're struggling economically it's because of Democrat governance and Democrat policies in the federal government that is spending way more money than it should and doing things that never was even envisioned by our founding fathers to be doing."
However, Johnson's Democratic election opponent, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D), argues otherwise. In a new statement, he pushed back against Johnson's remarks criticizing him for his stance.
“Self-serving, multimillionaire senator Ron Johnson wants to strip working people of the Social Security and Medicare they’ve earned. Wisconsinites pay into Social Security through a lifetime of hard work, and they’re counting on this program and Medicare – but Ron Johnson just doesn't care,” Barnes said in a statement.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also offered her perspective via Twitter. "While [POTUS] and congressional Democrats fight for the Inflation Reduction Act, which would let Medicare negotiate lower drug prices, congressional Republicans like @SenRonJohnson want to put Medicare on the chopping block. That would devastate families."
Despite his remarks, Johnson's spokesperson Alexa Henning has also responded to the backlash insisting the Republican lawmaker seeks to keep both programs financially stable.
"The Senator’s point was that without fiscal discipline and oversight typically found with discretionary spending, Congress has allowed the guaranteed benefits for programs like Social Security and Medicare to be threatened," Henning said in a statement.
"This must be addressed by Congress taking its responsibilities seriously to ensure that seniors don’t need to question whether the programs they depend on remain solvent. As he said, we need a process to save these programs and no one is doing anything to save them long-term. We just continue piling up debt, mortgaging our children's future, and putting these programs at risk."
Reprinted with permission from Alternet.