Politics Magazine

Why Does GOP Want To Cut Social Security & Medicare?

Posted on the 16 January 2023 by Jobsanger
Why Does GOP Want To Cut Social Security & Medicare?
The House Republicans are soon going to try to force cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Why are they attacking such popular programs? Paul Krugman (in The New York Times) thinks he has the answer. Here is part of what he has to say:

The Republicans who now control the House will soon try to slash Social Security and Medicare. They plan to achieve this by holding the economy hostage, threatening to create a financial crisis by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling. The interesting questions are why they want to do this, given that it appears politically suicidal, and how Democrats will respond.

Before I get into the puzzles, let me start by pointing out that the plot against the social safety net isn’t a conspiracy theory. The general shape of the scheme has been widely reported for months. The arithmetic is also clear: It isn’t possible to achieve huge reductions in the budget deficit, while depriving the I.R.S. of the resources it needs to go after tax cheats, without deep cuts in popular social programs. . . .

But where is this determination to gut programs that are crucial to well over 100 million Americans coming from? These programs are, after all, extremely popular, even among Republican voters.

It’s true that self-identified Republicans say that they are vehemently opposed to “socialism.” But when an Economist/YouGov poll asked them which programs they considered socialistic, none of the big-ticket items made the cut. Social Security? Not socialism. Medicare — which is, by the way, a single-payer national health insurance program, which we’re often told Americans would never accept — also isn’t socialism. . . .

The attitude of the Republican rank and file, then, seems to be that big government is bad — but when we get down to specifics, don’t cut you, don’t cut me, cut that fellow behind the tree. Which means that the priorities of the new House majority are wildly out of line with those of its own voters, let alone those of the electorate as a whole. . . .

So where is the push to gut Social Security and Medicare coming from? Ronald Reagan left the White House 34 years ago. The modern G.O.P. seems much less animated by small-government ideology than by the desire to wage culture war. And there’s no necessary connection between culture war and right-wing economics. . . .

Here’s what I think is going on: Even now, many — perhaps most — Republicans in Congress aren’t culture-war zealots. Instead, they’re careerists who depend, both for campaign contributions and for post-Congress career prospects, on the same billionaires who have supported right-wing economic ideology for decades. They won’t stand up to the crazies and conspiracy theorists, but their own agenda is still tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor and middle class.

And the culture warriors go along because they basically aren’t interested in policy substance.

I’m not completely sure that this analysis is right. But all indications are that at some point this year, the Biden administration will have to deal with a full-scale effort at economic blackmail, a threat to blow up the economy unless the safety net is shredded. And I worry that Democrats still aren’t taking that threat seriously enough.

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