Tag: social security
Janet Yellen

House Republicans Pushing New Scheme To Damage Social Security

Barely House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been valiantly trying to turn the tables on President Joe Biden for months, ever since the president so deftly boxed in Republicans at the State of the Union address in early February and forced them to agree that Social Security and Medicare are sacrosanct. Sounding like a grade schooler, McCarthy tried to taunt Biden ahead of the House vote on the Republicans’ dystopian debt ceiling hike and funding cuts extortion bill. Biden’s the one too “afraid” to meet with him, and the one who’s “jeopardizing Medicare and Social Security,” McCarthy whined.

Biden is refusing to engage in the tit-for-tat, keeping on message that Social Security and Medicare are too important to be playing these kinds of games over. A White House official told Bloomberg on background that they believe it’s a key wedge issue against Republicans in 2024, and will use it to fight McCarthy’s debt ceiling extortion and keep using it even after that issue is resolved.

While Biden is continuing to insist that budget talks and the debt ceiling remain separate issues, he’s keeping the drumbeat of protecting these programs, with the message “MAGA extremists are trying to gut Social Security and Medicare.”

There’s good reason for that: polling. A new YouGov/Economist poll shows that 70 percent of voters oppose cuts to the programs, and that includes 64 percent of Republican voters. Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, told Bloomberg, “Social Security and Medicare is the number one winning argument against Republicans in polling.”

There’s also the fact that it happens to be true that Republicans just can’t stop themselves from trying to damage the programs. While they didn’t include actual benefits cuts in the debt ceiling extortion bill, they propose such drastic cuts to the Social Security Administration that enrollees in the programs would be harmed.

The 22 percent across-the-board cuts required by the bill “would greatly harm our ability to serve the public as we are already struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic,” the Social Security Administration told House Democrats in a letter responding to their request for estimates of the impact McCarthy’s bill would have. The SSA would have to close field offices and shorten operating hours, as well as furlough or lay off workers. All this would mean delays in disability application decisions and processing retirement claims.

“If we are faced with a cut of more than six percent, it would be catastrophic for the agency and for the people depending on Social Security programs supporting their daily needs,” SSA said. ”For every $100 million below the 6 percent reduction, we would have to lay off an additional 1,000 people, further undermining services to the public. Every 1,000 staff lay off is the equivalent of closing over 40 field offices.”

That’s the best-case scenario under the Republican plan. But since they are showing every inclination to go over the debt ceiling cliff, the worst could happen. If it does, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said this week, “it is unlikely that the federal government would be able to issue payments to millions of Americans, including our military families and seniors who rely on Social Security.”

McCarthy seems to be operating under the assumption that the funding cuts part of his extortion bill takes the place of creating an actual budget, because it’s almost May—weeks behind the stated (albeit rarely met) deadline for it, and the House still hasn’t done that.

The only complete budget any House Republican group has developed came from the Republican Study Committee—which has most of the Republican conference as members—before the last election. It has provisions “raising the eligibility ages for each program, along with withholding payments for individuals who retire early or had a certain income, and privatized funding for Social Security to lower income taxes.”

Those are definitely benefit cuts.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

Right-Wing Media Provide 'Safe Space' For Calls To Cut Social Security (VIDEO)

Right-Wing Media Provide 'Safe Space' For Calls To Cut Social Security (VIDEO)

Right-wing media figures and activists continue to call for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, even as leaders of the Republican Party deny that slashing benefits for seniors is a goal. Conservative pundits are making these demands against the backdrop of ongoing debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and the Republican-controlled House, perpetuating the myth that federal spending is out of control as an excuse to push austerity policies.

Conservative orthodoxy has long held that Social Security and Medicare need to be “reformed,” a euphemism for cutting benefits or the raising eligibility age for future enrollees of either program. Nearly 90% of people over 65 were receiving Social Security checks as of the end of last year, representing about 30% of their income, according to official figures. As of last September, more than 65 million people were on Medicare. Slashing federal spending for either of those programs is politically unpopular, and some conservatives have changed their messaging — if not their underlying ideology — as a result.

Former President Donald Trump, for example, recently released an ad attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who is expected to announce his candidacy shortly – for backing cuts to the programs. Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has also promised not to include the programs in the massive spending reductions his party is seeking.

But old habits die hard, and there is no shortage of recent examples of conservative media figures, activists, and politicians who have made it clear that their goal is to weaken and undermine these programs, often under the pretext of protecting them in the long term.

Townhall editor Katie Pavlich illustrated this dynamic last week on Fox News, when she referenced the national debt as a justification for cutting benefits to seniors. “The bottom line is that for either party in Washington, if they want to actually address this $32 trillion problem, someone is going to have to propose spending -- legislation that takes on reforming social security and Medicare,” Pavlich said. “Those are the things that are driving the debt.”

Fox News anchor John Roberts showed how the Republican talking point infiltrates the network’s so-called straight news coverage.

“There’s all this talk about how to get spending under control, and I think people on both sides rationally know there is no way to get spending under control unless you start to implement reforms to things like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, but neither side wants to come forward unilaterally and say, ‘Here’s our plan to do it,’” Roberts said. “There needs to be cooperation, they need to reach out across the aisle and until they do that, that debt ceiling is just going to keep bumping up and bumping up and bumping up — look at where it is now, more than $31 trillion, it's stunning.”

Roberts’ argument rests on the unstated and incorrect assumption that the US budget is analogous to a household budget, a fallacy that has been repeatedly debunked.

Earlier this month, Fox News host Mark Levin called for cuts on his radio show, even as he denied he was doing so. “Now, this isn't about cutting them,” Levin said. “This is about changing certain variables in these programs for future generations.”

“One of the proposals that was made several years ago, and I think what DeSantis voted for, and I would have voted for it too, was to raise the retirement age to 70, to grandfather in all current beneficiaries and those who will be beneficiaries within the next 10 years, so anybody 55 and older, because it's not gonna exist,” he continued.

Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk similarly advocated for reducing benefits to seniors in the future, also positioning himself as telling a harsh but necessary truth. “Current beneficiaries, I don't think anything should be touched, but yes, there need to be some adjustments for future retirees,” Kirk said. “And if you even say that, it's like the third rail.”

The right-wing outlet The Epoch Times positively covered presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s calls to gut Social Security and Medicare as well, with the headline: “Haley Promises Supporters She Will Address the Nation’s Huge Deficit.”

Speaking in a barn in the legislative district where she got her political start, Nikki Haley, former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, said the nation needs to get its fiscal house in order.

And that work, she said, will include reforming entitlements.

“Social Security will be bankrupt in 10 years. Medicare will be bankrupt in five,” she said.

Fellow Republican presidential primary candidate Mike Pence also advocated for reductions to Social Security and Medicare, saying “we’ve got to put them on the table in the long term.”

On former Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) broke from the official leadership line to consider reducing seniors’ benefits. “I believe that we have to have a discussion about raising the age of Social Security,” Gaetz said.

Right-wing site The Daily Caller was more honest than most in a story from earlier this month headlined: “Despite The Establishment’s Best Efforts, Some Republicans Want To Reform Entitlements.”

National Review, which has long positioned itself as the intellectual vanguard of the conservative movement, has also been open about their desire to weaken Social Security and Medicare.

In a blog post pegged to Trump’s attack ad, senior writer Noah Rothman defended DeSantis on the grounds that “the longtime Republican lawmaker once evinced support for longtime Republican positions: specifically, the urgent and undeniable national imperative for reforming America’s unfunded entitlement programs before they collapse.”

In another, contributor Jack Salmon called for “raising the retirement age to at least 68, indexing retirement age to life expectancy, and adopting chained Consumer Price Index [CPI] as the preferred metric for measuring annual cost-of-living adjustments.” Research shows that moving to chained CPI would reduce benefits for seniors.

Russ Vought, a Christian nationalist sympathizer and the founder of the right-wing think tank the Center for Renewing America, has been at the center of the debt ceiling debate, including pushing for massive cuts to social welfare programs. Like McCarthy, Vought’s official line is that his organization isn’t targeting Social Security or Medicare, but diverges from the House leader in acknowledging that those programs are only off the table for the short term.

“The House Republicans are not making Social Security and Medicare a fight on this debt limit,” Vought said on Fox News last month. He added that his organization’s budget targeted Medicaid, while also admitting that when it came to Social Security and Medicare, “We have to reform those programs over time.”

While Social Security and Medicare are universal programs that benefit seniors, and are incredibly politically durable as a result, Medicaid is a targeted anti-poverty program whose recipients conservatives are happy to demonize. There is no small irony that the faux-populist wing of the Republican Party — which includes Bannon and Vought — are doing their best to deny health care to the working class.

Vought frequently expresses his eagerness to slash Medicaid coverage by implementing work requirements. Public health experts call that a “terrible idea,” but it is nonetheless one that conservatives keep proposing. “You’ve been talking about the work requirements,” Bannon said to Vought on an April 24 edition of War Room.

Vought responded, arguing to get significant fiscal reductions in spending “you have to really begin to reform Medicaid, as I’ve proposed, and get people who are adults without children off of the Medicaid program.”

Bannon has repeatedly advocated for reducing the federal budget by cutting Medicaid. On April 18, he reiterated that “Medicare and Social Security are off the table,” but “you can get there” by “getting into Medicaid.” He similarly called for “massive cuts” to Medicaid earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, citing Vought’s work.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the House GOP plan to add work requirements to Medicaid would result in 10 million people losing their coverage.

The through-line from all of these statements are clear. Conservatives in government and right-wing media are laying the foundation to eviscerate the limited but important social programs for seniors and the working class. Their denials are paper-thin, when they’re even offered at all.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Trump and DeSantis

'What Happened To Donald?': Pro-DeSantis SuperPAC Ad Hits Trump (VIDEO)

Never Back Down, the super PAC backing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis aired its first advertisement via Fox News Sunday lambasting former President Donald Trump for "spending millions on attacking"the governor, Axios reports.

The ad titled "Fight Democrats, Not Republicans," was fueled by the former president's complaint that DeSantis has not shown enough support amid his legal troubles in Manhattan — but it also teases the governor's upcoming 2024 presidential bid.

Additionally, the commercial raises the question, "What happened to Donald Trump?" saying, "Trump should fight Democrats, not lie about Governor DeSantis."

Mediaite reports:

The former president has gone so far as to smear the Florida governor by suggesting he is a pedophile. Recently, Trump's Make America Great Again PAC released an ad mocking DeSantis for reportedly eating pudding with his fingers — which the governor has denied.

According to Mediaite, Erin Perrine, former Trump communications director who now serves as communications director at Never Back Down, told Axios, "The ad is right: What happened to Donald Trump?"

The DeSantis group asserts in the ad, "Donald Trump is being attacked by a Democrat prosecutor in New York. So why is he spending millions attacking the Republican governor of Florida? Trump's stealing pages from the Biden-Pelosi playbook, repeating lies about Social Security."

Axios reports:

From the pro-Trump side, the first ad by the Make America Great Again super PAC flayed DeSantis on Social Security, a big issue for both the primary and the general election. The ad tied DeSantis to Republicans who've suggested cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Watch the video below or at this link.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Joe Biden

Fox News Poll Shows Public Supports Biden On Guns, Social Security, And Medicare

A new poll released by Fox News shows that a majority of people support President Joe Biden's positions on enforcing gun safety measures and protecting the Social Security and Medicare programs.

The poll, conducted for the conservative outlet in late March, asked voters about their overall approval of Biden and to list which national issues they were most concerned about.

Seventy-four percent of those who responded to the poll said they support Biden's recent executive order intended to increase background checks on gun purchasers, and 71 percent said they believe continuing to fund Social Security and Medicare is more important than reducing the budget deficit.

The executive order Biden signed on March 14 directed the U.S. attorney general's office to ensure firearms sellers are in compliance with requirements that they process sales through the National Instant Background Check System, which determines legal eligibility to own a firearm. The order also instructed members of the Cabinet to promote "red flag" gun laws through partnerships with local law enforcement, health care providers, educators and others. It instructed the Federal Trade Commission to produce a report examining the marketing of guns, particularly to minors.

Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. He recently reiterated the call following the March 27 mass shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, school that killed six, including three children.

Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, but it died in 2004 after it failed to reauthorize it. A 2019 study published by the New York University School of Medicine found that the number of mass shootings had decreased while the ban was in effect and had increased significantly after it expired.

Congressional Republicans oppose a ban. In July 2022, all but two House Republicans voted against legislation that would have reinstated the ban.

Republican lawmakers have expressed support for restricting access to Medicare and Social Security or eliminating the programs entirely, which respondents to Fox News' poll overwhelmingly opposed.

They have not offered a unified budget proposal containing recommendations for addressing Social Security and Medicare, but coalitions within the party and individual members of Congress have backed cuts to funding for the programs.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in 2022 proposed in his "Rescue America" plan to "sunset" programs and require Congress to repeatedly reauthorize them. He walked back that proposal following public outcry.

The conservative Republican Study Committee counts as its members 172 House Republicans. Last year, the committee released a 2023 budget proposal titled "Blueprint to Save America" that called for the retirement age to be gradually increased.

Individual Republicans have expressed support for cuts and changes that would limit eligibility for benefits under the entitlement programs.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said the consistent funding of the programs should be disrupted and subjected to a vote as discretionary spending each year. Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-TX) suggested that "some sort of means-testing potentially" could be implemented to limit who can receive benefits.

Biden vocally supports the programs and has promised to veto attempts to curtail them.

In his most recent budget, released March 9, Biden called for "protecting and strengthening" Social Security. Biden has proposed raising taxes on those earning above $400,000 to continue funding Medicare beyond the current projected date of insolvency in 2028 and "at least into the 2050s," according to the White House.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.