Will Democrats sabotage themselves on day one?
The lights in the Capitol Dome glow behind the Peace Monument statue in Washington, Dec. 31, 2018, as a partial government shutdown stretches into its second week. A new Congress will be seated this week, but the Democratic leadership already looks set to sabotage its own agenda. | J. Scott Applewhite / AP

After Christmas, everyone’s thoughts turn to New Year’s resolutions. As Democrats take control of the House of Representatives this week, their first move will be to introduce a rules package, which works like a New Year’s resolution for Congress.

Unfortunately, the Democrats are planning to include PAYGO, a rule that would require budget cut offsets for every piece of new spending.

This isn’t a rule Republicans play by—they didn’t include it during the Bush years, and they haven’t included it under Trump. But Democrats insist on an un-level playing field that allows Republicans to pocket $2 trillion in tax cuts, and then forces Democrats to find a way to pay for them. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Social Security Works was formed in 2010, in the wake of the Great Recession. Lawmakers in Washington were talking about “tightening their belts” and “making hard choices.” Wall Street-funded think tanks were urging President Obama and Democrats in Congress to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for the too-small stimulus, which was nevertheless crucial to keeping the Great Recession from becoming another Great Depression.

Democrats fell into this trap—convening the Bowles-Simpson Commission and even going so far as including Social Security cuts in President Obama’s budget proposal. They delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act not for any legitimate reason, but to fit its costs into an arbitrary 10-year budget window.

Social Security Works, our members, and our progressive allies defeated the proposals to cut our earned benefits, even as Democrats followed them into electoral defeat in 2010, 2014, and 2016.

Now, with Democrats poised to return to power in the House, they are blundering into the same traps.

The very first thing that the House of Representatives will do is adopt rules for legislation in the upcoming Congress. And reportedly, they are planning to reinstate “PAYGO” rules, which requires offsets for any new spending or tax cuts. With their first act, Democrats are proposing to tie one hand behind their back.

Republicans added $2 trillion to the deficit with their tax scam, with no plans to pay for it. Mitch McConnell has already falsely insisted that we need to cut Social Security and Medicare as a result. We can’t keep playing the same game with different rules. Democrats won’t win with one hand tied behind their backs.

This is an era that calls for bold leadership. That means improved Medicare for All, expanded Social Security, and taking on Big Pharma to lower prescription drug prices. Our government’s priority should be delivering results for the people, not appeasing the Wall Street Journal editorial page.

For more on why PAYGO is not just bad politics but bad economic policy check out the recent blog from the Economic Policy Institute.

Add your name: Tell House Democrats not to include PAYGO in their rules package!


Alex Lawson
Alex Lawson

Alex Lawson is the Executive Director of Social Security Works, the convening organization of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition — a coalition made up of over 340 national and state organizations representing over 50 million Americans.