President Joe Biden last week slammed two Republican senators for proposing to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it. First, Biden renewed his attacks on Florida’s Rick Scott, who has called for all government programs, including Social Security and Medicare, to be reapproved every five years. The president then ripped Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson for recently proposing a vote each year to determine if Social Security and Medicare would be funded. Scott, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, controversially wrote in his 11-Point Plan to Rescue America, “If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” According to President Biden, that means if our notoriously gridlocked Congress couldn’t agree on the terms of what Social Security and Medicare should look like every five years, those programs would end.
Here's the alarming truth: These calls to end Social Security and Medicare as they are administered are not new. Democrat Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security program into law in 1935, and Democrat Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into existence in 1965. George H.W. Bush, who was running for U.S. Senate in 1964, called Medicare “socialized medicine.” A few years before that, Ronald Reagan had claimed that Medicare would lead to Americans “telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, then-Speaker of the House GOP Representative Paul Ryan re-upped his plan to change Medicare into something unrecognizable. During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised not to cut Medicare, but the 2020 budget he proposed called for an approximately $800 billion dollar cut over 10 years. That didn’t happen because Democrats controlled the House, but Trump’s budget was another example of the GOP signaling to the country that, if given the chance, they will gut or even end guaranteed health care for more than 60 million seniors.
The GOP was also opposed to Social Security from the start. Before Social Security was enacted, millions of seniors who weren’t able to work simply had no income, ending up in “poorhouses” or on the street, but in 1935 Republican Representative John Taber of New York said it was “designed to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers, and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.” As we move forward, with any hope, Congress will be able to pull together a strategic plan in advance of the trust funds reserves depleting, and further benefits can be afforded to seniors struggling in this post-pandemic society.