Friday, January 20, 2017

Congressional GOP Begins Stealth Attack On Social Security

The pictures above show landmarks in American history. The top one shows President Roosevelt signing the bill to create Social Security, and the bottom one shows President Johnson signing the bill to create Medicare. Those two programs have been enormously successful in keeping seniors out of abject poverty and making sure they get the medical care they need. They are both examples of government programs that work exactly as intended.

But the Republicans have never liked either program, and they have tried to destroy both for many years now. That has not changed with the 115th Congress (which has GOP majorities in both houses). But the Republicans have learned from past experience. They know they cannot make a frontal assault on either program, because those programs are too popular with the voting public. Instead, they have developed a "stealth" approach, which will chip away at both programs until they no longer work -- claiming they are "saving" the programs with repeated cuts to funding.

And the latest GOP attacks have started already. Here is how this new stealth attack is described by Nancy Altman in The Huffington Post:

The Republicans are desperate to destroy Social Security and Medicare. These two programs demonstrate government at its best. The federal government runs these two extremely popular programs more efficiently, universally, securely, and effectively than the private sector does with its alternatives — or indeed could, no matter how well those private sector programs were designed. 
Because Social Security and Medicare are government programs that work so well, the Republican elite — with its seemingly religious belief that the private sector is always the best — hates them. So obsessed are the Republicans in their desire to eliminate these effective government programs that the very first action that House Republicans took in the new Congress was to adopt a rules package that included a new rule that amounts to a stealth attack on Social Security and Medicare.
The rules package, adopted at the start of every new Congress, sets out how the chamber will operate for the next two years. This year’s package is already infamous for provisions in the initial version that would have gutted the Office of Congressional Ethics — provisions that were ultimately dropped after a massive outcry from the American people. Unnoticed by most was an additional provision, which is one part of the Republican game plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare.
Social Security — the people’s pension — and Medicare — the first step toward universal health insurance for all — do not go through the appropriations process because, as monthly pension payments and medical insurance, they must pay what is owed, not what Congress chooses to spend. If Social Security and Medicare were subject to the whims of every Congress, they would be radically transformed. No one could count on the benefits they had earned. Presumably with that goal in mind, the new rules require the relevant committees to make “recommendations for changes to existing law for moving [unspecified} programs…from mandatory funding to discretionary appropriations, where appropriate.”
Note the vague language. Republican politicians understand how popular Social Security and Medicare are. Yet they desperately want to destroy the programs, which put the lie to their anti-government agenda by illustrating clearly that there are some tasks that government does much better then the private sector. 
The solution? Cut and radically transform Social Security and Medicare, but do it in a manner that avoids political accountability. Using changes in the arcane rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts fits that bill perfectly. By the time the American people realize what’s happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past, and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons. . . .
(This is only part of the article. I urge you to read it all. We must protect Social Security and Medicare.)

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