President Joe Biden last week slammed two Republican senators for proposing to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it. First, Biden renewed his attacks on Florida’s Rick Scott, who has called for all government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, to be reapproved every five years. The president then ripped Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson for recently proposing a vote each year to determine if Social Security and Medicare would be funded.
President Joe Biden last week slammed two Republican senators for proposing to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it.
As Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, writes in his “11-Point Plan to Rescue America,” “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” That means if our notoriously gridlocked Congress couldn’t agree on the terms of what Social Security and Medicare should look like every five years, those programs would end.
In his remarks about Johnson, the president said, “As my mother would say, ‘God love him.’”
Before you roll your eyes and say that Republicans wont’ really end those two beloved federal programs, remember how many of us dismissed the GOP when for years they vowed to overturn Roe v. Wade. Many viewed their words as simply red meat for their base. It wasn’t.
We need to admit that GOP leaders mean what they say. They will doggedly work toward their goal of dismantling Social Security and Medicare, especially if they regain control of Congress and the White House.
Here's the alarming truth: These calls to end Social Security and Medicare as they are administered are not new. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security program into law in 1935, and Democrat Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into existence in 1965.
For decades, Republicans have been saying they are coming for these programs, two of the Democratic Party’s proudest achievements.
In fact, many Republicans actively campaigned against Medicare. George H.W. Bush, who was running for U.S. Senate in 1964, called Medicare “socialized medicine.” A few years before that, Ronald Reagan had claimed that Medicare would lead to Americans “telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.”
In the recent political era, however, the GOP hasn’t just spoken negatively about the programs, but used their power to try to undermine them. In 1994, when Republicans, led by Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, took control of the House for the first time in 40 years, one of their top priorities was gutting Medicare. And the next year, with Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, they voted to cut $270 billion in Medicare funding to finance a tax cut that would primarily benefit upper income taxpayers. Experts said the budget cut would push 500,000 seniors into poverty, and President Bill Clinton, who vetoed the measure, accused the Republicans of trying to “eviscerate the health system for our older Americans."
After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, then-Speaker of the House GOP Rep. Paul Ryan re-upped his plan to change Medicare into something unrecognizable. Instead of Medicare guaranteeing coverage to those over 65 years of age, Ryan wanted to create in essence a “voucher” program where Americans would have subsidies to buy private health insurance. The result would have been the shrinking of Medicare and seniors covering more of their medical bills. In response, the head of AARP slammed Ryan’s proposal as “a clear downgrade of the Medicare benefits people have earned throughout their working lives,” adding that “seniors will be asked to bear more risk at greater personal cost.”
After Donald Trump was elected president, then-Speaker of the House GOP Rep Paul Ryan re-upped his plan to change Medicare into something unrecognizable
During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised not to cut Medicare, but the 2020 budget he proposed called for an approximately $800 billion dollar cut over 10 years. That didn’t happen because Democrats controlled the House, but Trump’s budget was another example of the GOP signaling to the country that, if given the chance, they will gut or even end guaranteed health care for more than 60 million seniors.
The GOP was also opposed to Social Security from the start. Before Social Security was enacted, millions of seniors who weren’t able to work simply had no income, ending up in “poorhouses” or on the street, but in 1935 Republican Rep. John Taber of New York said it was “designed to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers, and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.”
In reality, Social Security, which currently provides 66 million people, including 8 million disabled workers, with monthly benefits, has become a lifeline for Americans. But in 2005, President George W. Bush attempted to essentially privatize Social Security, claiming that it was in a “crisis” and that it needed significant reforms to avoid “bankruptcy.” Despite Republicans in Congress being on board, the public overwhelmingly rejected Bush’s proposal. As Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall has said, Bush’s plan “was taking something that was working and making it something that was very risky, inherently risky and could have very negative consequences for individual people.”
The GOP’s efforts to end Social Security and Medicare may have been delayed, but, as Scott and Johnson are reminding us, the party continues to hold onto that dream. Government helping people goes against the GOP’s philosophy. These elite want to use their positions in government to get tax cuts for their wealthy donors and to impose laws that force women to carry a fetus to term.
As President Biden is fond of saying, this is “not a joke.” As we saw with its campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade, the GOP won’t stop until it achieves its goal. We’ve been warned.