Republicans use debt ceiling fight to cut safety net

Kay Pence is vice president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans.

Refusing to raise the debt ceiling is like running up your credit card and punishing yourself by refusing to pay the bill.  It ruins your credit score and costs more in the long run. Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize new spending, it authorizes borrowing to pay bills already incurred. Paying bills are obligations not negotiations.

MAGA Republicans want to use the debt ceiling fight to force cuts in future unnamed programs. What they want to cut isn’t exactly secret; we have seen and rejected, most of their proposals before.

Outraged Republicans claim they have no intention of cutting Social Security or Medicare, but those lies are easy to fact-check.

A caucus of U.S. House members, the Republican Study Committee, releases fairly detailed budget proposals annually to set the party agenda. Read their plans for yourself: the latest version was published as the Blueprint to Save America. Or read last year’s proposal, called Reclaiming Our Fiscal Future

For what it’s worth, U.S. Representatives Randy Feenstra (IA-04), Ashley Hinson (IA-02), and Zach Nunn (IA-03) are all members of the Republican Study Committee. It’s easy to read between the lines to see whose future they are reclaiming and who will be paying.

The Republican Study Committee calls for raising the retirement age to 70, as well as means-testing and partially privatizing Social Security. They want Medicare eligibility to match Social Security full retirement age, and seek to index both programs for life expectancy.

They propose to “modernize” the favorable tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance, giving people more “freedom.” Or stated another way: you’re on your own. Freedom is great if you are rich enough or healthy enough to afford it. 

No surprise, they would repeal the Affordable Care Act, turn Medicaid into state-run block grants, and repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, including its $35 insulin cap for Medicare recipients and other drug cost reduction measures.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the prescription drug provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act will reduce the federal deficit by $237 billion between 2022 and 2031.  Republicans care more about pharmaceutical profits than taxpayer savings.

Congress could improve Social Security’s solvency by raising the cap on taxable income. Working people earning less than $160,200 pay into Social Security on 100 percent of their paychecks. Someone earning $320,400 only pays on half of their paychecks. Someone making $2 million hits the payroll cap in January and pays nothing into Social Security for the rest of the year. 

It’s funny how a flat tax isn’t quite as attractive when we’re asking high earners to pay the same percentage on all their wages, just like the rest of us.

If Republicans credibly wanted to reduce the national debt, they would repeal the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy, which added almost $2 trillion to the deficit. Instead they propose cuts to programs on which hard-working Americans depend. It is clear whose side they are on.

Top photo of the reflection of the U.S. Capitol by Jonathan O’Reilly available via Shutterstock.

About the Author(s)

Kay Pence