Three Dems Betray Social Security, Medicare

Social Security and Medicare have long been targets in the GOP shooting gallery. Lots of Dems take aim at them too – senator Joe Biden did throughout his congressional career. But despite mendacious yelps about the Social Security fund going bankrupt or Medicare “needing to be fixed,” they remain the two most effective antipoverty programs in the history of the Republic. Not that there have been many. There was welfare, axed by Bill “Crush the Poor” Clinton. We Americans also have food stamps, Medicaid and veterans have the VA with its top-of-the-line, free health care. All periodically come under attack by right-wing Republicans and managerial-class-worshipping Dems. But things took a turn for the worse in mid-January, and here’s how…

Three Democratic representatives on the congressional Budget Committee voted, along with 19 Republicans, to send a bill to the House, establishing a commission that Common Dreams on January 18 called “a Trojan Horse for Social Security and Medicare cuts.” Who were these Judases with their scarcely concealed ageism? Jimmy Panetta (California), Earl Blumenauer (Oregon) and, most responsible, Scott Peters (California). This piece of nastiness is called the Fiscal Commission Act, and make no mistake: it will help dispossess ordinary, older Americans.

Needless to say, the Budget Committee ditched amendments to tax “the rich to bolster Social Security and Medicare,” because plutocrats’ bank accounts are sacred. According to Pennsylvania House member Brendan Doyle, “there are absolutely those who are getting ready to use a commission as a back doorway to force through unpopular cuts” to the two programs. How unpopular? Let’s just say no public person in his or her right mind would propose such cuts, knowing full well that it would turn him/her into a political leper tout de suite. So what they can’t do in public, these shameless hypocrites do in private and with deceit.

The left advocacy group Demand Progress sent out a fundraiser that got right to the point: “Republicans have been hell-bent on destroying Social Security for decades, and they have unveiled a devious plan to finally accomplish their goal THIS YEAR. Here’s the plan: create a closed-door commission to gut Social Security – and then schedule a straight up-or-down vote on the commission’s recommendations during the lame-duck session of congress right AFTER the election. That way members of Congress can promise not to cut Social Security during the election and then turn around and do just that.” So listen up candidates: Commit to vote against the commission’s recommendations, or lose your precious election! As for presidential contestants Joe “I’d Veto Medicare-For-All” Biden and Donald “Rich People Need Lower Taxes” Trump – vow to veto any bill cutting these two lifesaving programs or face the wrath of senior citizen voters! And remember, no one goes to the polls more reliably than elderly retirees.

So who are the these three Dems dedicated to impoverishing elderly Americans? Well, Jimmy Panetta represents liberal Santa Cruz, California, and boasts accomplishments like an affordable housing project and “partnerships at all levels of government to address the cost of housing in our community,” according to his website.

This is especially germane, because when septuagenarians lose their Social Security checks, thanks in part to Panetta’s Budget Committee vote, many will decamp to the sidewalk to sleep under the stars. Maybe Panetta could arrange for cheaper housing to be indexed to the age of the destitute elderly – penniless nonagenarians go to the head of the line, followed by octogenarians and so forth. That way, senior citizens in wheelchairs might not have to struggle to fit their devices into a tent – if they don’t have to sell their wheelchairs once they lose their Social Security check.

Also from California, we have Scott Peters, another lawmaker whose big smile raises the question: What have you got against old folks, Scott? His website advertises the deadly Fiscal Commission Act and the Fiscal State of the Nation Act as HIS legislation. In other words, we can thank a Democrat for cooking up the poisonous gallimaufry that could ultimately kill Social Security. And he’s proud of it!

True, Peters couches his praise of his commission in terms of avoiding “automatic and across-the-board cuts to Social Security and Medicare.” Oh, so instead we’ll get carefully tailored cuts to these programs, their size conveniently tbd. In other words, the Demand Progress fundraiser and Common Dreams screed hit the nail on the head. This commission IS a Trojan Horse ready to defund the programs. If Peters really is in an altruistic frenzy about across-the-board cuts of 23 percent, which kick in in a decade, he’d introduce legislation to eliminate or scale back those automatic cuts. And get the money where, you ask? I’ll tell you: by repealing Trump’s tax cuts for the rich and by slashing Pentagon spending. Billionaires don’t need lower taxes, and our military has famously lost track of over $1 trillion. Let them help fund Social Security.

Last but not least among the Three Musketeers sworn to snatch Social Security checks from the gnarled fingers of the elderly is Earl Blumenauer, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus. Because yep, that’s what our seniors will clamor for, as their furniture is thrown on the street due to eviction for non-payment of rent – marijuana. Maybe Blumenauer from his lofty perch in this caucus could author legislation legalizing pot for old folks stressed out by bankruptcy. Given his vote for this awful Social Security commission, that’s the least he could do. He could also thus win points with his liberal Oregon constituency, amirite?

Not to gang up on the Dems, I should repeat that this attack on Social Security had the support, in committee, of 19 Republicans. Just as, when it reaches the House floor, it will doubtless get the vote of EVERY Republican reptile in the chamber. The economic woes of senior citizens do not move them. Tax decreases for the fantastically rich, billions of dollars for more tanks, guns and bombs – that’s what makes the GOP tingle with delight. They’ve wanted to defund Social Security since Franklin Roosevelt signed it into law in the mid-twentieth century. Now, with the help of three, two-faced Dems, they may finally get their chance.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.