Republicans Confirm Their Plan To Let Social Security Go Insolvent

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As recently as 2016, the Republican Party’s official platform promised to take seriously the approaching insolvency of Social Security and Medicare, America’s two largest entitlement programs.

We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the ‘Third Rail’ of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it,” that version of the GOP platform read. “The Democratic Party still treats it that way, even though everyone knows that its current course will lead to a financial and social disaster.”

Back then, when the GOP still had some lingering muscle memory of advocating for fiscal responsibility, it was estimated that the federal government had about two decades to solve the approaching entitlement crisis.

Now, there is only a decade until Social Security hits a brick wall that will trigger automatic cuts to benefits (and even less time until parts of Medicare go over a cliff). Rather than facing that problem and proposing solutions, however, the Republican Party’s newly adopted platform embraces the plan that the old GOP criticized eight years ago: Do nothing and wait for the consequences to arrive.

In the new platform, released Monday, the Republican Party says it will “not cut one penny” from Social Security or Medicare and will also oppose efforts to raise the retirement age.

Where those efforts might be coming from is unclear, since President Joe Biden also opposes changing the retirement age. It’s actually a group of congressional Republicans who have put forth the most serious (though far from complete) plan to raise the retirement age—a plan that is very much in tension with the party’s new platform.

Choosing to do nothing is still a choice. And we know exactly where the path that both Biden and Donald Trump have picked will end. When Social Security hits insolvency in the early 2030s, beneficiaries will see an automatic cut to their monthly checks. Right now, the trustees that run the program estimate that the cut will be 21 percent, with further cuts likely in future years if nothing changes. This is the outcome that the Republican Party’s new platform promises to deliver.

Indeed, at last month’s debate Trump and Biden both tried to blame the other for trying to change Social Security, while neither presented a workable plan to keep the program solvent or phase it out.

“[Trump] wants to get rid of Social Security; he thinks that there’s plenty to cut in Social Security,” Biden said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper for a plan to address Social Security’s fiscal problems. (Biden did reiterate his vague plan to make the wealthy pay more to prop up Social Security, though that’s also insufficient on its own.)

Trump had even less of a plan. “Social Security, he’s destroying it,” the former president said, referring to Biden. “Because millions of people are pouring into our country, and they’re putting them on to Social Security.” (Illegal immigrants generally do not receive Social Security benefits.)

This whole spectacle is a little bit like having two fire chiefs arguing over who will do the least to put out a house fire—except it’s even worse because they also agree to prohibit you from contracting with a private fire service.

This isn’t leadership. It’s politically motivated, cynical cowardice.

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