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Press is Way Behind on Social Security FlimFlam

UNITED STATES - MARCH 8: Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., attends a news conference after the Senate luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
February 8, 2023 2:23 p.m.
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With the future of Social Security and Medicare back under discussion — and not in a good way — we need to review a few points about how these subjects are discussed in the nation’s capital. This morning I saw some very solid, level-headed reporters noting that Rick Scott didn’t say Social Security and Medicare should be sunsetted after 5 years. He said all government programs should be sunsetted. And it just happens that Social Security and Medicare are government programs. In other words, these folks suggested, while Biden’s claim was technically true it amounted to a kind of cheap shot.

That’s malarkey.

Social Security and Medicare aren’t just random programs that happened to get caught up in the general sunsetting. That is absurd. Those are the central programs the federal government runs in addition to the Department of Defense. Scott claims he doesn’t want to repeal them. He just thinks they should be sunsetted after five years and then Congress can just repass them.


The point here is that every five years these programs get revisited from the ground up. The programs’ enemies, of whom there are many and almost all in the GOP, relish the opportunity. Rick Scott isn’t some random backbencher. He was in charge of the GOP’s Senate campaigns!

Nor is this the only rumblings for big cuts. The prime movers in the House spent most of last year pushing for major cuts to Social Security that would be at the top of their agenda if they reclaimed the Congress. McCarthy and others tried to rein them in a bit or rather get them to be quieter. But not much.

For most political reporters, this is like it used to be with “voter fraud.” My colleague David made the proper analogy in an editorial conversation this morning. It used to be that lots of reporters thought, “It turns out Republicans are pretty exercised about voter fraud and they seem to think there’s a lot of it. So, well, glad they’re on the case!” Over the last decade they’ve rightly taken a far more jaundiced view of this kind of malicious and deceptive GOP politicking. But when it comes to Social Security, Medicare and other social insurance programs they’re still basically there.

This isn’t a new concern of this site. It’s been central to what we do from the beginning. Not our first rodeo.

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