By Nancy Altman and Linda Benesch
This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post
Republican senators have just voted for their version of the Trump tax scam legislation, a huge giveaway to the super-wealthy. By doing so, they have brought their overlords — the billionaire donor class — one step closer to their longstanding goal of dismantling Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The donor class war against these programs is no secret. When David Koch ran for vice president in 1980 as part of the libertarian party, his platform stated, “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs,” and “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.”
Fortunately for the rest of us, Republican politicians have not been careful about hiding their deceitful and destructive aims. In explaining the need to pass some version of the tax scam, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) confessed, “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) helpfully clarified that, in addition to passing the tax scam, Republicans also plan “to bring spending under control.”
Rubio went on to state that the “spending” he was referencing is our earned Social Security and Medicare benefits. What he said Republicans “have to” do is change “the structure of Social Security and Medicare.” That is, of course, a more euphemistic description than the one found in David Koch’s platform. But it means the same thing.
The Republicans tried to take a major step towards this goal in the Trumpcare fight this summer. In the guise of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, they sought to destroy Medicaid by block granting it. Fortunately, that effort failed, thanks to enormous grassroots pressure.
Determined as they are, they are now seeking to accomplish the same goal but with somewhat different tactics. The tax scam, now headed to a conference committee, will trigger automatic cuts to Medicare, once Donald Trump signs it into law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it will automatically cut Medicare by $25 billion in the next year and $400 billion in the next decade.
Last time Medicare faced an across the board benefit cut due to the 2013 budget sequester, it literally killed. Among other horrors, it led to elderly cancer patients being denied chemotherapy treatment. Congress could waive the automatic cuts, but it would require Speaker Paul Ryan, who has said he has been dreaming of these kinds of cuts since his college days, to bring a waiver bill to the floor and convince his caucus to vote for it.
In addition to triggering automatic cuts to Medicare, the tax scam also reduces Medicaid’s enrollment by five million people, and increases premiums for many others who have private health insurance, as a result of repealing a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.
If the tax scam becomes law, those cuts to Medicare and Medicaid will be just the start. Rubio has made clear that Republican politicians will use the lost revenue from the tax scam as an excuse to end Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as we know them.
This is just one more battle — albeit a major one — in an ongoing war. Republican elites and their donors have been trying to dismantle these programs since they were enacted. As far back as 1961, Ronald Reagan (then pitchman/host of television’s General Electric Theater) gained political prominence by opposing the creation of Medicare, claiming that it would lead to “socialist dictatorship.” Decades earlier, Republican presidential contender Alf Landon ran for president promising to repeal and replace FDR’s brand new Social Security program.
Today’s Republicans are still fighting the battle. After the GOP gave their last giant tax giveaway to the wealthy, President George W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security. He pointed to budget deficits created by his tax giveaway and claimed that our nation “couldn’t afford” Social Security — even though it doesn’t contribute a single penny to the deficit.
Just as Rubio recently revealed the true motivations and goals of the tax scam, back in 2005 a top Bush Administration staffer wrote a confidential memo explaining the real reason Republicans were pushing Social Security privatization. The memo, which was fortuitously leaked, stated, “For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win — and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country.”
The truth is that Republican donors have always hated Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They simply want to be richer, the rest of the country be damned. In the past, the American people have thwarted every effort in this longstanding, ongoing war.
Republican politicians have learned from past failures. Instead of being clear about their hatred of these programs, they argue that they are simply trying to “save” them. They claim that the United States — the richest country in the world at the richest moment in its history — suddenly can’t afford these efficient and effective programs. Until recently, mainstream Democratic politicians bought into their lie. But no more.
Democrats now recognize that whether we expand or cut these programs is a question of values. And they once again embrace their legacy as the creators and protectors of these essential programs.
It is a shock that older voters who depend on these programs would ever vote Republican. If we want to keep these programs strong and functioning, it is imperative that we fight the tax scam with all our might. Though versions of it have now passed the Senate and the House, both chambers will have to vote again on a consensus version in order for it to become law.
If you support these programs, please call those who represent you in Washington and let them know that you are against the tax scam and against all cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Let them know that you don’t just call; you also vote. Next time they are up for re-election, let’s throw every Republican who voted for the tax scam and its cuts to Medicare and Medicaid out of office. Instead, let’s elect politicians who promise to keep their hands off our earned benefits — except to expand them!