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Stein writes: "House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America's deficit."

House Speaker Paul Ryan said on a radio show on Dec. 6, 2017, that
House Speaker Paul Ryan said on a radio show on Dec. 6, 2017, that "we're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit." (photo: Mark Wilson/Getty)

Paul Ryan Says Republicans Are Planning Major Cuts to Medicare and Social Security

By Jeff Stein, The Washington Post

07 December 17


ouse Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America's deficit.

"We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit," Ryan said during an appearance on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show. ". . . Frankly, it's the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements - because that's really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking."

Ryan said that he believes he has begun convincing President Donald Trump in their private conversations about the need to rein in Medicare, the federal health program that primarily insures the elderly. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. (Ryan also suggested congressional Republicans were unlikely to try changing Social Security because the rules of the Senate forbid changes to the program through reconciliation - the procedure the Senate can use to pass legislation with only 50 votes.)

"I think the president is understanding that choice and competition works everywhere in health care, especially in Medicare," Ryan said. ". . . This has been my big thing for many, many years. I think it's the biggest entitlement we've got to reform."

Ryan's remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Republicans are close to passing a tax bill nonpartisan analysts say would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion over a decade. Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill, and Senate Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

"You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn't the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said last week.

While whipping votes for the tax bill, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, attacked "liberal programs" for the poor and said Congress needed to stop wasting Americans' money.

"We're spending ourselves into bankruptcy," Hatch said. "Now, let's just be honest about it: We're in trouble. This country is in deep debt. You don't help the poor by not solving the problems of debt, and you don't help the poor by continually pushing more and more liberal programs through."

Trump has not clarified which specific programs would be affected by the proposed "welfare reform," though congressional Republicans are signaling that they aim to impose work requirements on food stamps and direct cash assistance for the poor.

"We have a welfare system that's trapping people in poverty and effectively paying people not to work," Ryan told Kaminsky on Wednesday. "We've got to work on that."

Liberals have alleged that the GOP will use higher deficits - in part caused by their tax bill - as a pretext to accomplish the long-held conservative policy objective of cutting government health-care and social-service spending, which the left believes would hit the poor the hardest.

"What's coming next is all too predictable: The deficit hawks will come flying back after this bill becomes law," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the ranking Democrat on the finance committee, during a speech on the tax debate. "Republicans are already saying 'entitlement reform' and 'welfare reform' are next up on the docket. But nobody should be fooled - that's just code for attacks on Medicaid, on Medicare, on Social Security, on anti-hunger programs."

On the Senate floor during the tax debate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked Rubio and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey, R-Pa., to promise that Republicans would not advance cuts to Medicare and Social Security after their tax bill. Toomey said that there was "no secret plan" to do so, while Rubio said he opposed cuts to either program for current beneficiaries. However, neither closed the door to changing the programs for future beneficiaries.

"I am not going to support any cuts to people who are on the program and need those benefits. But I want this program to survive," Toomey said. To which Sanders responded: "He just told you he's going to cut Social Security."

Many conservatives have long argued for cutting and changing social safety net programs, arguing that anti-poverty programs have failed and that Social Security spending is growing at an unsustainable rate.

Still, members of both parties have long been reluctant to cut benefits, especially for seniors, due in part to the potential political cost of doing so. And in discussing changes, Republicans, including Rubio, have largely confined their ideas to plans that would affect new beneficiaries, rather than current ones.

But it may be particularly difficult for Republicans to push those measures ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, in which many in swing states and districts face well-funded Democratic challengers hoping to ride an anti-Trump wave into office.

Ryan said he's optimistic, adding that Republicans could target the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid next year in addition to Medicare, despite their failure to repeal the health care law in 2017.

"What it is we really need to convert our health care system to a patient-centered system so we have more choices and more competition. Choice and competition brings down prices and improves quality; government-run health care is the opposite of that," Ryan said. "So I think these reforms that we've been talking about, that we're still going to keep pushing, that will help not just make Medicaid less expensive . . . but it will help Medicare as well." your social media marketing partner


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+20 # PCPrincess 2017-12-07 10:29
If the pitchforks don't come soon, we are toast.
+16 # indian weaver 2017-12-07 11:10
Revolutionary war anyone?
+3 # lfeuille 2017-12-07 20:15
I think we have the justification a la Declaration of Independence. But that doesn't guarantee effectiveness. A botched effort will likely lead to even more repression.
+21 # vt143 2017-12-07 11:57
So let me get this straight: you add trillions to the deficit with your ridiculous giveaway-to-the -1% tax cut (while throwing crumbs to the 99%) and ramp up the already inflated defense budget and then want to pay for it at the expense of the poor, ill and disadvantaged! Did the Mercers and Koch buy you a new car or re you doing this out of the goodness of your heart?
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-07 13:55
vt -- you got it straight.
+14 # chrisconno 2017-12-07 12:22
So now the republicans are worried about the deficit? Why weren't they worried about it when they cut taxes or the rich. Where have all the decent republicans gone. I know there used to be some, they passed the Clean Water Act. But they sure seem like they have gone extinct along with all intelligence in law making.
+14 # bardphile 2017-12-07 12:28
As a retiree with a Medicare card and small SSA check, I'm naturally distrustful about GOP intentions (understatement ). But by what principle of logic or morality should my generation's benefits emerge unscathed while succeeding generations get the shaft? The GOP strategy as suggested here buys off the old and throws the next generations under the bus. That's so not right. I can barely grip a pitchfork now, but I'm ready (metaphorically ) to wield one when the time comes.
+6 # indian weaver 2017-12-07 12:45
Thank goodness good patriotic USA citizens can buy all the weapons of mass destruction they want now. Otherwise, We the People are toast.
+4 # Robbee 2017-12-07 19:21
Quoting bardphile:
I can barely grip a pitchfork now, but I'm ready (metaphorically) to wield one when the time comes.

- there is an extremely important chess game regarding the debt limit and those who would otherwise suffer spending cuts -

npr says dems are willing to cooperate in raising the debt limit so long as - recall the parity deal? - repukes agree to increase non-military spending, dollar per dollar, as much as military spending

yesterday the house! voted to delay the debt limit issue another 2 weeks

if dems hang tough? a big if? then at very least dozens of repukes in congress have to vote to increase a debt limit they promised never to

if parity sticks, then it seems Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are safe for the foreseeable future - ya! rubio, no friend to working folks, can hold his damn hearings and nobody does anything

stay tuned!
+1 # lfeuille 2017-12-07 20:17
Sounds good, but there are enough turncoat Dems to kill it. The leadership and to get really tough on them and I don't know if they have the nerve.
+2 # futhark 2017-12-07 20:26
A big part of the problem is that in general Republicans see national security as an issue exclusively of keeping foreigners outside our borders. This is desirable because foreign powers making policy decisions concerning our domestic economy would likely be detrimental to the health and welfare of our citizens.

Now we are faced with a situation in which the threat to our health and welfare is not coming from a foreign government, but from powerful elites within our own country creating policies that most definitely are opposed to the long term best interests of the people and, indeed, all life on planet Earth.

A new conception of national security needs to be developed in which safeguards on our health and secure prosperity from internal as well as external threats are enacted.
+4 # mngreer 2017-12-07 12:40
It apparently is in the Repubs DNA to just not help anyone but the wealthy and their donors. If Ryan could get his nose out of Ayn Rand's musings maybe he could not be so mean. The Repubs have proven over and over again to me that they can't govern. Weren't they the ones who had 6 long years of total control when GW Bush was prez and brought us the Great Recession?
+6 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-07 13:58
Republicans have only one message -- transfer wealth to the billionaire class. Now there cannot be anyone left who does not understand this.

Let's really see if social security and medicare/caid are the 3rd rail of US politics. If Ryan and his crew keep talking like this, they should lose the House and Senate.

Now is the time for the Demo party to snap into action. Sanders is doing that. Where is the DNC, Clintons, Podestas and the other party leaders? Well, of course, they are drinking champagne with their billionaire friends.
+4 # BetaTheta 2017-12-07 16:17
We've seen this play out many times before. This time they are arrogantly declaring their austerity intentions before the deficit-creatin g bill is even finalized. It's in-your-face upward wealth-siphonin g, without even a pretense of fairness.
I suspect people like Ryan are so out of touch with reality that they believe their own supply-side bs, despite decades of evidence debunking it. Or he may just be a ruthless royalist.
+3 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2017-12-07 21:17
beta -- "they believe their own supply-side bs"

I wonder if they really do. Maybe some like Ryan or Reagan. These people have the intellects of 12 year old boys. Still, I'm mystified by anyone who would try to kill the three most successful government programs in all US history -- social security, medicare, and medicaid. Maybe they are just sociopaths.
0 # economagic 2017-12-08 20:24
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
I'm mystified by anyone who would try to kill the three most successful government programs in all US history -- social security, medicare, and medicaid. Maybe they are just sociopaths.

They want to kill those programs precisely BECAUSE they have been successful at creating opportunities for many people other than themselves to live fuller lives, and because they suggest the existence of a common good or "commonwealth"- -which they deny, acknowledging only the private good and private wealth.

Call them sociopaths; call them whatever. They are the apotheosis of the movement that began to overthrow the ancient tyranny of the kings and priests 200-300 years ago, the one that the Old School Conservative (below) seems to favor. It is also the beginning of their twilight, which may be short. Unfortunately it may not be the last tyranny.
-10 # Old School Conservative 2017-12-07 16:42
Enough with the rhetoric and scare tactics to rile up the ignorant. To make a few tweaks to these programs is not going to be the end of the world.

When the social security age was originally set, the retirement age was just a few years less than the average life expectancy. To increase the retirement age by a couple years when people are living 10 - 20 years longer is common sense.

Medicare is out of control because there is no competition. Nobody is going to take away medicare, just make it patient centered and competitive which will bring down the cost and improve care.

Medicaid could use reform to weed out the fraud and abuse. Drug testing and work requirements for able bodied mentally healthy people is common sense and it is working in Wisconsin where Ryan is from.
+3 # economagic 2017-12-07 20:40
Where on earth do you get these "alternative facts"? Can you cite a single source for any of your claims, that we may learn from you?
+2 # librarian1984 2017-12-07 22:19
There are sensible ways to adjust those programs but no one
mentions those, and it would help if Congress quit stealing from it. The swamp dwellers play games WITH OUR LIVES. Who can relax, always waiting for the floor to drop out -- or the GOP to pull the rug out from under?

These people seem a lot more hostile to me than they do, apparently, to you. The repeal attempts and the 'tax plan', to my eyes, are nakedly hostile to most Americans, taking what few protections and little security we have left to feed a bloated war machine, rich parasites and corporations -- already doing just fine.

Remember Reagan's tax cuts to inspire the rich to tinkle down on US? What's the excuse now? The market's soaring. Profits gaga across all sectors. But instead of helping US -- when 2/3 of the economy is based on consumer spending and wages have been stagnant for forty years -- they bleed us dry to give more lucre to the already-wealthy , presumably so it can trickle down to yacht builders and caterers.

Chuck Grassley showed his contempt when he said investors should get relief because WE would waste it on 'women and booze'. (My friend said, What does he think the rich are going to spend it on?)

This isn't capitalism. It is, as MLK said, socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for the rest of US.

What is conservative about today's GOP? It seems more like a criminal enterprise. Do they feel ANY obligation to US, the unwashed masses?

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