Republican leader tells the truth: He'll gut Social Security and Medicare | Editorial

Posted October 29, 2018

Mitch McConnell, whose contempt for the middle class is so profound that it gives kleptocracy a bad name, has offered up another issue for voters to ponder over the next week: If the Republicans hold on to both houses of Congress, he suggested last week, the preferred GOP fix for the massive deficit created by their tax plan is to take a meat axe to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.

Maybe he didn't plan to say that out loud, but hardly anyone was surprised when he did.

In December, amid broad bipartisan tittering, the Senate Majority Leader asserted that the tax cut - which mostly benefited corporations and the richest Americans - would actually shrink the deficit.

Nearly a dozen times, he said that "we are totally confident this is a revenue-neutral bill and probably a revenue producer."

Then, just as every non-partisan analysis had predicted, this bonanza for the wealthy increased the deficit by 17 percent for fiscal 2018 - it's up to $779 billion now -- and it is expected to top $1 trillion next year, the Treasury Department reports.

So you can probably guess what happens next.

McConnell called the deficit "very disturbing, and it's driven by the three biggest entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid."

"It's disappointing, but it's not a Republican problem. It's a bipartisan problem: unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future."

Behold: the austerity hawk is woke.

Like the deficit, which has grown by 77 percent since McConnell took the gavel, the tax plan isn't discussed much in this election cycle by GOP candidates. They talk a lot about dangerous Honduran toddlers and MS-13 gang members hiding in Nancy Pelosi's basement, but the Trump tax cut of 2017 is not exactly being celebrated as a notable American triumph.

It was great for billionaires. The top fifth of earners got 70 percent of the benefits, while the top 1 percent took more than one-third of the riches, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The top corporate rate, meanwhile, was cut to 20 percent, which costs the rest of us $2 trillion over 10 years.

So in an ostentatious display of chutzpah, McConnell figures the rest of us should pay for that by wrecking whatever financial security many of us will count on for our gentle years.

Sound fair? Medical costs are soaring. Pensions are as rare as the dodo. So that leaves Medicare and Social Security for many Americans - who have paid for them throughout their working lives - until McConnell vultures both.

Roughly half the country's seniors lived in poverty in 1935, the year Social Security helped cultivate the American century. In 20 years, poverty among seniors dropped to 28 percent, but only half the seniors had health insurance. Medicare fixed that. Only 9 percent of seniors live in poverty today, according to the Kaiser Foundation, and virtually all of them have access to health care. Census data shows that 22 million people are saved from poverty by Social Security.

Now it's in the cross hairs of a GOP-dominated Congress, even though most Americans have paid for it their entire working lives.

Because the deficit.

As for Medicaid, another lifeline for the most vulnerable, its expansion into neon red places like Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah is about to be passed via voter referendum.

McConnell also vows to take another whack at repealing the Affordable Care Act "if we have the votes....but that depends on what happens in a couple of weeks."

Yes, he said that out loud as well. Add that to the miasma swimming around voters' heads. And take that into the voting booth with you.


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