When Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) says his party wants to “protect and preserve” Social Security and Medicare, then refuses to say if any cuts are planned, you know that means President Biden was right about Republicans' desire to make cuts.
Smith, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was asked about what host Neil Cavuto called “this dustup” between Biden and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) over Social Security and Medicare. Scott has claimed he doesn’t plan to cut those programs, even though he put it in a public plan. Sen. Ron Johnson said today that Social Security is a legal Ponzi scheme that he wishes had been privatized. But Republicans insist Biden lied when he said, during Tuesday's State of the Union address, that Republicans want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare (spoiler alert: they do)
Cavuto asked about Scott’s plan which calls for all laws to come before Congress every five years for review. That, of course, would include Social Security and Medicare. You know that Republicans would never re-authorize it without major cuts, given half a chance.
SMITH: When President Biden stood before us at the State of the Union and tried that fear mongering again on Social Security and Medicare, it’s just a vicious cycle of lies, and that needs to be addressed. As the committee that has jurisdiction over Social Security and Medicare, we’re only going to protect and preserve it. We’re not cutting Social Security and Medicare, and it’s not tied to the debt ceiling.
Cavuto did a good job here. He interrupted, saying, “But when you say, ‘protect and preserve’ it, I mean, you’re acknowledging that as it goes now, it’s not sustainable, certainly over the next 10 years, the way it’s going, right?” he asked.
SMITH: You’re exactly right. It’s projected to go insolvent. Both of those programs over the next several years, and you know what? It’s projected to go insolvent faster now because of the Democrats reckless spending over the last two years. In fact, their reckless spending in the American Rescue Plan, which was at $2 trillion, is cutting Medicare immediately because of their own regulations.
FACT CHECK: This appears to be another Republican lie, which mischaracterizes Medicare savings via the Inflation Reduction Act as cuts.
Cavuto continued, “Are Republicans saying that they are not going to address or touch either in the next 10 years?”
Smith dodged the question. “I don’t know what the president was saying because I could barely understand half of it whenever we were there,” he sneered.
Cavuto pressed, “But what is the Republican position?”
Smith invoked his mother to suggest he loves Social Security and Medicare. But he also did not say Republicans have no plans to cut them.
SMITH: These are two very important programs. My mother is on Medicare, my mother is on Social Security. I come from a very working-class family. We have to make sure these programs are protected for people just like my mother, and that is what Republicans are going to do.”
Cavuto wasn’t fooled. “Not this year. It won’t be an issue this year but it could be in future years, right?”
Again, Smith did not deny it. He tried to blame Democrats. “If Democrats would come to the table and help us fix the problem that’s leading to the insolvency of Medicare and Social Security, we would do that.”
Smith continued blaming Biden. He said, “We have a president who’s been refusing to even talk about the debt limit, and now he’s started to say that he might, so if they want to, we’re ready to do it, because we need to do it for the American people.”
You can watch Smith's revealing dodges below, from the February 9, 2023 Your World.
CORRECTIONS: This post originally said it was Sen. Rick Scott who called Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Also, this post originally said this Fox segment aired on January 9, 2023.
To begin with, they’re dodging the fact that they’ve always been opposed to SS and Medicare and have spent decades trying to denigrate those programs and turn the public against them, despite the solid popularity both programs continue to have. They’re also dodging the fact that they’ve spent 20 years expressly ignoring simple common sense steps the Dems have proposed, such as lifting the cap on applicable income for FICA, expanding the pool of employees paying into FICA and making a small increase in the employer side of FICA. The standard GOP response is to say “Taxes are off the table” – except that they had no problem skyrocketing taxes for the Middle Class with the 2017 Tax Transfer.
So the “concern” about Social Security’s future is a lot of crocodile tears. And the repeated falsehoods about how Medicare and Social Security are “insolvent” or “bankrupt” are just a continuation of the decades of calling SS a “Ponzi Scheme” or “Social Insecurity” and an attempt to justify the massive cuts they now believe they can get away with. In reality, both SS and Medicare will continue to function but may not be able to pay more than 80% of the proper amount within about a decade if the GOP continues to stonewall.
The most obvious bit of semantics angry Right Wingers are playing here is for them to loudly protest that they’re not trying to cut Social Security. What they’re leaving out is the phrase “for those people already retired and receiving payments.” All of the GOP plans to destroy the programs include a proviso that people who are already retired will continue to get their Social Security. But that’s not what we’re talking about and the Right Wing knows this. What the GOP is trying to do is slash Social Security for Middle Class Employees who are still in the workforce and not imminently retiring. The most current Republican Study Committee “blueprint” says their new “improved” Social Security would go into effect for everyone aged 54 and younger who could potentially take early retirement in FY2030. So one could say that the GOP’s fingers-crossed promise not to touch SS is true “from a certain point of view”. Smith’s statement that he wants to protect SS for people just like his mother is partially about exempting the current retirees from his new plans.
The second bit of semantics comes with the phrase “protect and preserve” from Smith. So we’re clear, he doesn’t mean to actually protect and preserve the programs as they’ve functioned over the past nearly 90 years. The GOP’s thinking is that their massive cuts to the programs will be the way to “protect and preserve” them without any pesky “tax increases”. And that’s where the other aspect of Smith’s statement about protecting SS for people just like his mother comes into play. It’s the same approach as former acting president Pence saying that SS should be protected for people “at the point of the need”. What they’re saying is that SS should just be a small stipend for the indigent elderly. That’s the recommended approach from the Heritage Foundation that the GOP is following – to reduce SS to a flat $1200/month and to means test it so that it really only goes to people “at the point of the need”.
It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the actual intent here is to both sour the public on SS, and to get in another shot at the Middle Class Employees who already took a body blow with the Tax Transfer. Where the Tax Transfer was an obvious counterpunch to President Obama’s exhortation to the wealthy to “pay your fair share”, the continued attempts to slash Social Security sound like an obvious move by the Right Wing to generate a “crisis” by refusing to act for over 20 years and then use their “crisis” to justify massive cuts, which can then lead to actually sunsetting these programs as soon as the retiree population has all passed.