Republicans Attack Social Security, Medicare. Voters Bite Back.
By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Schadenfreude, delight in an an adversary’s trouble, isn’t nice. Most of the time I am nice, or at least I try to be. Right now, though, I’m enjoying videos of town hall meetings conducted by certain Republican congress members; their constituents, many of whom identify themselves as former supporters, are chewing them up and spitting them out when the subject turns to the Republican party’s plans to gut programs that help the poor and vulnerable, and give the proceeds to the richest Americans.
Here’s a quickie, less than two minutes, showing what happened when Paul Ryan tried, in his own home town, to justify his budget plan, the one endorsed and passed along to the Senate with the votes of all but four House Republicans. If you’re out of anti-nausea pills, skip the video and read the transcript that accompanies it. But if you’re worried about the Senate’s uncritical adoption of the Ryan plan, check out this link. You’ll feel some better.
The thing that frosts me most right now is the blatant lying and manipulation related to what the congressional Republicans want to do with Social Security and Medicare. I’m particularly incensed at the congress members I’ve heard telling groups of old folks like me that we really don’t have to worry. The new voucher plan won’t apply to anyone 55 or older. I’m way older.
An Associated Press article quotes Ryan, either speaking before his town hall meeting or purely delusional, as saying
“Seniors, as soon as they realize this doesn’t affect them, they are not so opposed. I really don’t run into that much opposition. I run into some confusion. As soon as people understand what we are talking about, that clears the air.”
Do they really think we’re that stupid? And selfish? The people I raised – three biological children and one foster son – are now between 49 and 53. My grandson is 25. How dare they insult people like me, suggesting we don’t care about our descendants enough to demand that the United States live up to its 75-year commitment to people who do their jobs and play by the rules?
How dare they insult our intelligence by blaming the budget deficit and resulting national debt on Social Security, especially, and Medicare and Medicaid as well? Truly, medical costs are out of control, but that’s not the fault of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.
If political campaigns were funded fairly, Congress wouldn’t be afraid to legislate control over insurance and pharmaceutical companies. If Congress hadn’t passed Bush’s unfunded giveaway to insurance and drug companies known as Medicare Plan D, if Bush hadn’t lied us into two wars, and if he hadn’t pushed through those tax cuts in the wee hours of the morning, we wouldn’t be having this deficit conversation now.
As to Social Security, it has zero effect on the budget. It can’t, by law, spend more than it takes in. Actually, part of the reason the Republican legislators are trying to gut Social Security is that during the Bush years Social Security was taking in much more than it was spending, and the government took that excess to feed its tax-and-borrow habit, converting $2.6 trillion (that’s trillion, with a T. 2.6 followed by 12 zeroes) into IOUs, otherwise known as treasury bonds.
Not long ago, Keith Olbermann had on his MSNBC news show (now defunct) a Republican legislator. I’m not sure who, but it may have been Sen. Tom Coburn, who speaks of the government “stealing” from Social Security, while saying it can never be paid back. That’s what Olberman’s guest said. Without apology, he acknowledged the debt, admitted that was why Social Security was projected to go broke years from now, and continued to argue for cutting benefits now.
Integrity? What integrity?
Not one to quibble about integrity himself, Ronald Reagan, when he signed the 1983 Social Security reform bill, said this:
“This bill demonstrates for all time our nation’s ironclad commitment to Social Security. It assures the elderly that America will always keep the promises made in troubled times a half a century ago. It assures those who are still working that they, too, have a pact with the future. From this day forward, they have our pledge that they will get their fair share of benefits when they retire.”
Today’s Congressional Republicans, especially the ones who revere The Great Prevaricator, should be forced to eat those words, printed on a good grade of paper. Or maybe toilet paper would be more appropriate.
The fact is that, at present, Social Security is still taking in more than it spends because of the interest on its $2.6 trillion on treasury bonds. Should the government default on those bonds, which represent loans from Social Security to the government, it would also have to default on its loans from creditors such as China, or risk outright rebellion. Do you think Congress, even its demented wing, is going to let that happen?
Republicans have been getting an earful during their spring break. When they come back to the Capitol next week, we will either see a change in tone, or know that a significant portion of the legislature is out of touch with reality. In that case, reality will bite them where they sit, on those cushy chairs in the chamber. But we’ll have to wait til next year for that to happen. And then my schadenfreude will be complete.
Posted on April 29th, 2011 by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Filed under: Federal Budget