When conservatives attack the Democrats’ attempt to pass an enormous reconciliation package, we focus on the cost and the left-wing agenda items the Dems are imposing, some of which have little to due with what is properly the subject of budget reconciliation. These are valid attacks and they resonate not just with strong conservatives, but also with those on the center-right.
When Joe Manchin criticizes the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, he talks about cost too, but points specifically to the impact a spending spree would have on social security and Medicare. This line of criticism has resonance beyond the right and center-right. In fact, protecting social security has been a Democratic rallying cry, and a club Dems use to beat up Republicans, for as long as I can remember.
Social security and Medicare are in trouble. That’s clear from this report by the Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds. According to the report:
The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivors benefits, will be able to pay scheduled benefits on a timely basis until 2033, one year earlier than reported last year. At that time, the fund’s reserves will become depleted and continuing tax income will be sufficient to pay 76 percent of scheduled benefits. . . .
The Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, or Medicare Part A, which helps pay for services such as inpatient hospital care, will be able to pay scheduled benefits until 2026, the same year as reported last year. At that time, the fund’s reserves will become depleted and continuing total program income will be sufficient to pay 91 percent of total scheduled benefits. . . .
[T]he combined Medicare funds will be below 55 percent of projected combined annual outlays within the next seven fiscal years. Under the law, two consecutive such determinations, as is the case again this year, constitute a “Medicare funding warning.”
As I said above, Democrats traditionally have fought to protect social security, or at least have so postured. But in their new, woke incarnation, the Dems are less interested in doing so.
Old people are not part of the emerging Democratic coalition. We aren’t woke. We tend to vote Republican. We talk too much about tradition and traditional values. Worst of all, we’re mostly White.
The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s of the world don’t have much use for the elderly.
Fortunately for Ocasio-Cortez and her crowd, they have an ally in the president of the United States. Joe Biden is an exception to the rule that Democrats’ used to be guardians of social security.
This article in The Intercept, from January 2020, persuasively makes that case. It shows that Biden has lied (a shocker, I know) about his record on social security.
Over the past few weeks, former Vice President Joe Biden has been making an effort to recast his record on Social Security as one of a champion who defended the program from assaults, rather than one who consistently argued that it ought to be cut. . . .
At Vice’s Black and Brown Forum in Iowa this week, when pressed on his proposal to freeze Social Security payments by moderator Antonia Hylton, he simply lied: “I didn’t propose a freeze.”
In fact, Biden has argued for cuts or freezes to Social Security throughout much of his career. Earlier in January, The Intercept wrote about several instances in which Biden advocated for cutting Social Security over the course of his career. Biden, when he acknowledges his past support for cuts, portrays the advocacy as deep in the past. But a close inspection finds reams of more recent evidence of Biden’s support for cuts. . . .
The cuts came closest to happening amid talks between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans aimed at hammering out a so-called grand bargain. The most prominent vehicle for those negotiations was known as the Bowles-Simpson Commission. . . .
And the staff director for Bowles-Simpson? Bruce Reed [senior policy adviser in Biden’s presidential campaign and current White House deputy chief of staff]. . .The chairs of the commission recommended reducing Social Security benefits for the top half of earners, cutting the amount the benefit grew relative to inflation and raising the retirement age to 69.
The next phase of the Obama-era bargain talks, in the wake of Bowles-Simpson, became the so-called Biden Committee, a series of negotiations over deficit reduction chaired by Biden, staffed by Reed, and joined by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; and others. Biden, in talks that were covered closely in Bob Woodward’s book “The Price of Politics,” put Social Security and other cuts on the table but couldn’t get to a yes because Republicans refused to agree to any tax cuts.
Joe Manchin complains that “spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare is the definition of fiscal insanity.” He says he has told Biden as much.
Between the Democrats’ support for that insanity and Biden’s past efforts to cut social security, its fair to say that the Dems have touched what used to be called the third rail of American politics. Republicans should say it.