On the economy side of things, why is it that the GOP only screams about debts and deficit when there’s a Democratic president? Oh yeah, they don’t really care about the deficit. They care about the politics. But do all of them care more about scoring points against Democrats than what will happen to them when their leadership goes after Social Security and Medicare?
McCarthy and team are not backing down from that fight, insisting that the programs will have to be cut to achieve the ridiculous, unnecessary, and disastrous goal of a balanced budget in 10 years. That goal would require $14 trillion in cuts in the next decade, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a deficit peacock group. There’s no way to make those kind of cuts without digging deeply into mandatory spending—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food assistance programs, and other federal payments. They won’t cut the military, and there’s not other big discretionary budgets to get it from.
So that reality belies the insistence from Republicans that they won’t apply cuts to current retirees, the assurances they are making to sound as if they are reasonable people. “You’ve got to protect Medicare and Social Security. And the path the Democrats are going, they are going to go bankrupt,” McCarthy said last week. “Let’s sit down and find a place that we can protect Medicare and Social Security for the future generations, let’s put our house in order on how we’re going to spend, and let’s make the investments we need to make America stronger.”
The only plan on the table from Republicans at the moment is the one from the the Republican Study Committee released last year, that raises the Medicare age to 67 and creates more privatization in the program. It would hike the retirement age for Social Security to 70 for younger workers, a solution only people who sit on their asses all day could come up with. It also considers siphoning off payroll taxes to the private sector. Bingo. Privatization.
Some Republicans have been around long enough to remember President George W. Bush’s “elections have consequences” push to privatize Social Security in 2005 and the subsequent midterm results in 2006, when Democrats retook both the House and Senate. Put restoring abortion rights and protecting Social Security on the ballot in 2024 and vulnerable GOP members have a lot to worry about.
Veteran Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Ways and Means Committee member, knows it. “It’s a good way to get fired quickly,” he said. That’s why Republicans are trying to force Democrats to the negotiating table—they don’t want to be left hanging out there forcing debt defaults and government shutdowns with only their fingerprints on them.
That’s why President Joe Biden needs to ignore his and his team’s instincts to try to deal-make with these people. It’s the instinct that drove him intervene in the 2011 “fiscal cliff” negotiations, cutting out then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who had Republicans over a barrel. Republicans were demanding Social Security and Medicare cuts then, too.
An end to the Bush tax cuts was in reach, a massive tax hike for the wealthy that would have given Democrats the upper hand in negotiating a new tax plan. Biden stepped in to negotiate with McConnell and, well, the leverage Democrats had was lost. On taxes, on the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations, on the sequester that was forcing austerity and the ill-fated grand bargain.
There can’t be a repeat of that. Not this time.