What the GOP is threatening to do to Social Security and Medicare is not politics as usual

What the GOP is threatening to do to Social Security and Medicare is not politics as usual

Traditional media is having a hell of a time this election in the “both sides” game, when one side (arguably their favorite) keeps insisting on doing things like cracking jokes and boosting heinous conspiracy theories about the assassination attempt on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, an attack that left her husband in the ICU with a head injury. These “journalists” insist on continuing to report on Republicans as if they are actually engaged in trying to make policy and help govern the country.

The result is stories like this one from Politico, about the GOP’s “ambitious energy agenda,” which is of course a repeat of what the GOP did when Obama was president: yell for more drilling and conduct bogus investigations. Or a story like this one from what remains of what used to be the paper of record for the nation, The New York Times.

“Republicans,” the headline says, “Float Changes to Social Security and Medicare.” Yes, “changes,” don’t you know. Nothing to get excited about here, just “proposals to limit retirement benefits.” They’re only talking about “limiting” benefits, not sowing the seeds of destruction of the programs to make sure they don’t exist for future retirees, the only not-so-secret agenda of Republicans since the inception of these programs.

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“Prominent Republicans are billing the moves as necessary to rein in government spending, which grew under both Republican and Democratic presidents in recent decades and then spiked as the Trump and Biden administrations unleashed trillions of dollars in economic relief during the pandemic,” the Times intones, going on to say that influential Republicans have “signaled a new willingness to push for Medicare and Social Security spending cuts as part of future budget negotiations with President Biden.”

I don’t know where in the hell the Times reporters and editors were for the whole of the Obama administration, because there is nothing new about this “willingness.” The paper definitely covered that crisis, and there are dozens of stories about the 2011 showdown the House GOP had with President Barack Obama and the Senate Democrats over the debt ceiling. They printed dozens of stories about government shutdown threats against Obama made by Republicans that involved demands to cut these programs. It’s not a new thing for the GOP, which tells you that they really do mean it.

It also took until the last third of the article for the Times reporters to mention that the threat is to hold the debt ceiling hostage for Social Security and Medicare cuts. “Those comments suggested that, unlike in past negotiations, Republicans could demand future cuts to the programs in order to raise America’s borrowing limit and avoid a default on government debt,” they write.

They do not write that this is the nuclear bomb of budget threats, that defaulting on the government debt would crater the national economy and throw the global economy into chaos. Times readers might realize that, but it would still be a worthwhile thing to point out that this is an economically terroristic threat from the GOP, and not just another policy dispute.

So anyway, yes, Republicans still want to cut Social Security and Medicare—if not for the current generation of retirees, then for the next ones—as a way to continue to undermine the programs. They also want to force major changes to other social safety programs to make more people hurt. Cruelty is absolutely the point, and they want to keep the people at the economic margins of society right where they are.

We can’t let that happen.

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How should we be reading the 2022 polls, in light of shifting margins and past misses? In this episode of The Downballot, Public Policy Polling’s Tom Jensen joins us to explain how his firm weights polls to reflect the likely electorate; why Democratic leads in most surveys this year should be treated as smaller than they appear because undecided voters lean heavily anti-Biden; and the surprisingly potent impact abortion has had on moving the needle with voters despite our deep polarization.

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