As if to remind us what is at stake with three weeks to go until election day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doubled-down on the GOP’s promises to ‘reform’ Social Security and Medicare, which really means cut and privatize. His comments came on the heels of a Treasury Department announcement that the federal budget deficit grew to nearly $780 billion during President Trump’s first full fiscal year in office, due largely to GOP tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations enacted at the end of 2017.

Nevertheless, in a television interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday, McConnell perpetuated the convenient untruth that Social Security and Medicare are the main drivers of the debt. 

“It’s very disturbing… There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle those changes because of the popularity of those programs.” – Mitch McConnell, Bloomberg, 10/16/18

In fact, tax expenditures – especially the Trump/GOP tax cuts – are the number one drivers of the debt, not Social Security or Medicare.  Social Security is self-funded and does not contribute to the debt.  The same goes for Medicare Part A.

Contrary to McConnell’s claim that there is a “bipartisan reluctance” to address the future of Social Security and Medicare, Democrats on Capitol Hill have offered several common sense solutions that would modestly improve benefits, while keeping both programs fiscally sound for the foreseeable future.  These include Rep. John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act, Bernie Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act, and several pieces of legislation to boost Medicare benefits and empower the program to negotiate drug prices with Big Pharma.

However, under the ‘leadership’ of McConnell in the Senate and Paul Ryan in the House, none of these bills has been properly considered. Instead, McConnell and his cohorts insist that the only way forward is benefit cuts for future retirees.

In the Bloomberg interview, McConnell said both parties should have worked together to raise eligibility ages – which amounts to a huge benefit cut – during the Obama years.

“We had the opportunity to do that for 6-8 years. Unfortunately, it was not achieved.” – Mitch McConnell, 10/16/18

Certainly, seniors’ advocates do not consider it “unfortunate” that painful benefit cuts in the form of higher retirement ages were not enacted under President Obama.  But McConnell and other GOP leaders have made it clear that they will move forward with this kind of ‘entitlement reform’ if they retain control of both houses of Congress.

This is why we say that the choice this November is between boosting and cutting Social Security and Medicare.  One side (represented by McConnell) wants to cut benefits to pay for a tax cut for the wealthy and big corporations; the other wants to modestly increase benefits while assuring the financial health of both programs for decades to come.  That’s why it’s vital that seniors and their families cast ballots for candidates who want to expand – not slash – Social Security and Medicare.  If McConnell and his compatriots win, retirees lose.