Jim Crawford: What Republicans want on Social Security

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 13, 2023

For nearly 50 years, Republicans told us they wanted to end abortion. We should have believed them.

After Mitch McConnell’s stacking of the Supreme Court, this fundamental women’s right was taken away. Republicans could not disguise their glee.

While women across America scratched and clawed back, state by state, to reclaim the right to govern their own bodies, Republicans worked state by state to outlaw abortion further, even for rape and incest. Today, many Republicans support a national ban on abortion. The point is, when Republicans tell us what they believe, we should listen.

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During the State of the Union Address this week, President Joe Biden deftly gained a Republican commitment not to attempt to cut funding to Social Security or Medicare during the upcoming budget discussions.

But make no mistake; Republicans intend to eviscerate both programs. They always have; just listen to their words.

Last fall, in a Republican video conference call, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelley, R-Pennsylvania, said that Republicans would “all get thrown out of office (if) we told the truth” about their plans for Social Security. It would be, Kelley said, “political suicide.”

This was not news to his fellow Republicans, for they have fought against Social Security since its inception, claiming the 87-year-old program as a “Ponzi scheme” and a “hoax.”

Republican nominee Barry Goldwater ran against Social Security in his 1964 presidential campign , calling it “welfarism.” Goldwater claimed Social Security would turn each recipient “into a dependent animal creature.” It was Goldwater who thought to kill Social Security by making it a voluntary program, undermining its role as a universal retirement security.

Since then, Goldwater’s idea has become a conservative orthodoxy, the Silver Bullet that will finally defeat the hated program that so many Americans enjoy and support.

Fast forward to the plan of U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, to sunset Social Security every five years, ending it if there are not enough votes to continue the program.

It was Scott’s program that Biden was referencing in the State of the Union address and that Republicans booed, denying the truth of Biden’s claim.

Scott’s plan would have forced Congress to report every year what they plan to do when Social Security goes bankrupt. Of course, Social Security needs never go bankrupt, so long as Congress funds the program, so even the language was designed to kill the popular program.

And then there is the frequent meme that is used to undermine trust in Social Security, the claim that there will be no money left when the working people of today, who are contributing now, are ready for retirement.

That false claim originated in 1940 by Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, who ominously warned voters they would never collect a dollar of the money they entrusted to the program. It still undermines trust in Social Security today, 80-plus years later.

Do not for a moment think Scott’s extreme plan an outlier within the Republican Party today. Last August, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, suggested that Social Security and Medicare be voted on every year. Can you imagine the threat to retired Americans when their income and health care could be wiped out instantly?

Still not convinced that Republicans want Social Security to die?

During the Donald Trump presidency, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, came up with a great idea for funding “paid” family leave by borrowing family leave payments from future Social Security payments.

Under Rubio’s plan, if a parent dies before repaying their loans from their Social Security, their heirs would be forced to pay it back from the estate, thereby billing the children for their parents spending time with them as newborns.

We should have believed Republicans on abortion, they told us they did not believe women should have control of their own bodies. And we should believe them on Social Security and Medicare; they do not believe you should have retirement security and guaranteed health care.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.