The results of November’s U.S. House elections were — among other things — a seemingly loud rebuke of right-wing economic policies. Yet, scarcely a month after the Democrats flipped at least 40 congressional seats, some right-wing groups disingenuously draw the opposite conclusion.
FreedomWorks, a conservative nonprofit, which supported Tea Party candidates, contends that House Republicans lost because their economic policies were not draconian enough.
Specifically, the group’s president calls out the GOP for failing to cut “mandatory spending” — that is, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — to reduce the federal debt. (Never mind that Social Security and Medicare Part A are self-funded and add nary a drop of red ink). Meanwhile, FreedomWorks does not mention the Trump/GOP tax law, which ballooned the debt by some $2 trillion.
The truth is that voters in red and blue states overwhelmingly chose House candidates who pledged to protect — not cut — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. A glance at just a few pivotal campaigns bears this out:
- Abigail Spanberger, who vanquished Tea Partier Dave Brat in Virginia’s 7th district, vowed to “protect Social Security and Medicare so we can meet our obligations to seniors now and into the future.”
- Jared Golden flipped a Republican seat in Maine’s 2nd district promising to fight “privatization or rollback” of Social Security and Medicare, and advocated boosting benefits “so that more seniors have the opportunity for comfortable, secure retirements.”
- Ben McAdams, who bested GOP incumbent Mia Lovein Utah’s 4th district, campaigned against cuts to America’s social safety net programs. “Lives are literally at stake, based on the decisions Congress will make in the coming years,” the candidate said.
- Challenger Jason Crowwon Colorado’s 6th district seat from a five-term incumbent Republican, partly by defending Social Security and Medicare as “promises we’ve made to our seniors.”
In fact, roughly 80 of the nearly 100 candidates supported by our organization in the 2018 elections prevailed. Meanwhile, voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska passed initiatives to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In three other states, they elected governors who pledged to expand the program.
That’s because working families and retirees recognize that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid work. What FreedomWorks calls “flawed federal programs” are fundamental to a just society. For more than fifty years they have provided baseline financial and health security for the elderly, disabled, and poor. Nearly every American has a loved one touched by these programs, which is one reason why they remain extremely popular in poll after poll.
Voters aren’t blind. They saw the outgoing House majority try to slash more than a trillion dollars from these crucial programs in their 2018 and 2019 budgets. At the same time, voters witnessed President Trump and the GOP cutting taxes for the wealthy and big corporations by roughly the same amount. When it was reported that this reckless action would drive up the federal debt by nearly $2 trillion, so-called conservatives demanded that “entitlements” be cut to pay for it.
Continued calls from the right to cut Social Security and Medicare rely on the false claim that these programs are the “primary drivers of the debt.” In reality, tax expenditures — revenue that the federal government forgoes through tax cuts and loopholes — are the number one driver of the debt.
Fiscal conservatives concerned about mounting debt should look at those Trump/GOP tax cuts before sharpening their knives for programs that seniors, the disabled, and working people rely upon to stay healthy and out of poverty. Voters made it very clear in November: Hands off our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Max Richtman is president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, a membership organization that promotes the financial security, health and well being of current and future generations of maturing Americans. He also chairs the board of the National Committee’s Political Action Committee, a PAC that endorses candidates for federal office.