Progressives: Latest House Republican scheme includes Social Security death panel
'Zombies' stumble across the East Plaza of the U.S. Capitol to promote a haunted house event. According to progressives, a plan by House Republicans will create a Social Security 'death panel' that is a Trojan Horse for slowly killing off the program. | Bill Clark | CQ Roll Call via AP

WASHINGTON—Hoping to keep voters’ eyes off their battle over whether to keep the government going or not beyond September 30, the House’s ruling Republicans have come up with a diversion: A budget blueprint that threatens Social Security.

Their measure, which hits the GOP-controlled House Budget Committee on September 20 and the House floor after that, doesn’t actually advocate slashing the program. What it does is open the door to cutting people off the rolls, essentially actualizing long-held GOP beliefs that working people are living too long these days. They argue that when Social Security came into existence many died by the time they were 60. In their view, the program was never intended to do what it now does – help keep people alive well beyond that age.

Social Security has been, these days a target of MAGA Republicans, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and their funders from the corporate class.

The latest Republican budget blueprint would establish a bipartisan commission described by progressives as a death panel and is made up solely of lawmakers—no workers, union leaders, consumers, business executives, economists, or anyone else allowed—to study and “recommend” changes in the program.

The budget bill is dead on arrival in the Democratic-run Senate. It’s also not the actual temporary money bill, called a continuing resolution (CR), needed to keep the government’s doors open after October 1.

But it exposes the party’s priorities to voters—again. And they are shocking.

The commission is a thinly disguised “Social Security death panel,” says Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works. Though she didn’t say so, the only time the corporate class didn’t want to kill Social Security was when Republican President George W. Bush pushed his plan in 2015 to “privatize” it.

That would have let Wall Street get its hands on your Social Security money. Organized labor led the successful campaign to beat Bush’s scheme.

The budget blueprint doesn’t outright say it wants to kill Social Security, often called the “third rail” of American politics.

Blames so-called “entitlements”

Instead, it blames the national debt on entitlement spending, code words for programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, “and discretionary domestic programs.”

There’s nary a word against more money for the military, or only a few about more tax cuts for the rich and corporations. The blueprint cloaks those tax cuts as “pro-growth tax reforms.”

The bipartisan commission would “study all drivers of the debt,” it says. Then it would recommend a path of cuts to achieve what the Republicans call “fiscal sanity,” a barely balanced budget, taking a decade to get there.

Progressives promptly recognized the “commission” as a Trojan Horse for Social Security cuts.

“The White House has accurately labeled the planned GOP commission as a ‘death panel’ for Social Security,” said Altman.

“The only reason to make changes to Social Security via a closed-door, fast-track commission is to cut benefits,” Altman added. House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, who will bring the blueprint to the floor “and his fellow Republicans understand this, which is why their budget would create just such a commission.

“Republicans desperately want Democrats to provide cover for Social Security cuts, which are rightfully unpopular with voters of all parties. This is why their budget calls for a ‘bipartisan’ commission. Democrats should… slam this commission for what it is: A scheme to slash the American people’s hard-earned benefits.”

Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., the leader of the Budget Committee’s outnumbered Democrats, recognized the blueprint—and the commission—for the diversions they are.

“MAGA Republicans are driving our nation towards a costly government shutdown because they want to make cruel cuts to everything from health care to education, and this MAGA Budget doubles down on their extreme cuts,” said Boyle.

“America is barreling towards a government shutdown because Republicans reneged on the bipartisan budget agreement in their thirst for cruel budget cuts,” he added. The Republicans “are consumed by petty infighting and obsessed with an extreme MAGA agenda.”

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.