Republicans are giving up on massive entitlement reform, Politico wrote just last week, calling it a “quiet surrender on a subject that’s energized GOP fiscal hawks for the better part of a decade,” that “comes as new projections show Medicare’s trust fund in its worst shape since the recession, partly because of Republicans’ other chief obsession: their sweeping tax cuts.”
Well, guess what. That was utter bullshit. Not the part that the tax cuts endangered Medicare. We know that part is real. The part about Republicans giving up. Because they’ve got a 2019 budget proposal that would ostensibly cut the deficit by $8.1 trillion over the next 10 years. How it gets there, in large part, is by slashing mandatory and automatic spending programs. Like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. They’d take $5.4 trillion from these programs, “including $1 trillion from Medicaid and $537 billion from Medicare.”
They would cap Medicaid spending and enact work requirements for childless, non-disabled and non-elderly enrollees. They would raise the eligibility age for Medicare as well combine Parts A (hospital coverage) and B (health insurance) and “restructure the program into one where recipients can choose private health care plans.”
They start in on Social Security, too, through a backdoor. This first step is to prevent people who are on Social Security disability (SSDI) from also getting unemployment insurance benefits. This is counter to all their other work requirement objectives—the Social Security program has always encouraged those disabled people who are able to work at least part time to do so. They can receive SSDI payments if their disability prevents them from working at Social Security’s Substantial Gainful Activity level, which was $1,090 per month, in 2015. When they lose their jobs, they should be eligible to get unemployment insurance, just like everyone else. Here’s the Republican Congress telling one set of poor people they have to be working to get health care and another set who is disabled that they can’t receive the benefits of trying to work.
The bill also “includes reconciliation instructions requiring $302 billion in savings over 10 years, almost 50 percent more than the $203 billion in the initial version of the fiscal 2018 House budget resolution.” It appears that those instructions—which would let Republicans push through cuts on a party-line basis, without being subject to a Democratic filibuster in the Senate—are not defined. Meaning they could take that $302 billion wherever they can find it—Obamacare, Medicaid, wherever.
This isn’t about the deficit. This is about punishing poor people, and now disabled people, too. This is Republicans telling the American public exactly what they’re all about. But you know what, Republicans? Go for it. You go out and sell the American people on cutting Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid right before an election. I dare you.