Mike Pence wants to "Repeal and Replace" Social Security
Mike Pence is telling us he wants to end Social Security as we know it
Former Vice President Mike Pence is telling America he wants to “repeal and replace” Social Security with a “better deal.” I’m neither kidding nor exaggerating.
On Thursday, Pence was on Fox News to sell what appears to be a central theme in his expected 2024 presidential campaign. There, he bluntly laid out his vision to end Social Security as it is currently administered where all the funds are exclusively invested by the federal government.
Instead, Pence wants to fundamentally alter this program—created in 1935 to provide a lifeline for our nation’s seniors—to allow people “to invest a portion of their Social Security in a private savings account.” Pence declared with no ambiguity, "I think we can replace the New Deal programs with a better deal.”
As I’m sure you know, Social Security was part of series of programs enacted by Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt known as the “New Deal.” Pence is telling us point blank he wants to end that New Deal program.
Yep, the same Pence who ran with Donald Trump on the mantle of “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act with a “terrific” new healthcare plan--as Trump put it-- apparently wants to do the same with Social Security. As an aside, we are still waiting for that “phenomenal” healthcare plan promised in 2020 by the Trump/Pence team that was to be delivered within the next “two weeks.”
This was not a slip of the tongue by Pence. Earlier in February, the former Vice President made the exact same pledge in a closed door meeting with a corporate trade group, the National Association of Wholesale-Distributors, where he told them that “we can replace the New Deal with a better deal.” Pence claimed that somehow this would “save the government money.” (In actuality, studies of similar proposals in the past show it will cost the government more money.)
If Pence gets his way, the GOP controlled House would be playing a central role in drafting the sweeping changes to a program that is a lifeline for the approximately 67 million Americans who receive monthly benefits—people like my own mother. That means people like GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, George Santos, Lauren Boebert and others like them will be involved in drafting and voting on this new policy. Again, I’m neither kidding nor exaggerating.
Greene—perhaps the most visible Republican in the House next to Speaker Kevin McCarthy-- is best-known for spewing bigotry and conspiracy theories like the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon never happened and that mass shootings are “false flag” operations to take people’s guns.
Perhaps Rep. George Santos will tell us that he forgot to mention on his fabricated resume expertise in Social Security? Then there’s Rep. Lauren Boebert, who received the “Pants on Fire” lie designation from Politifact.com for her claim that not one person in Texas had died from Covid after the mask mandate was lifted. In reality, thousands have died Covid since that mandate ended.
Maybe the GOP will recruit as a key player in drafting Pence’s new program more senior members of their caucus, like House Judiciary committee chair Jim Jordan. As the Jan 6 committee’s final report details, Jordan was “a significant player in President Trump’s efforts” to overturn the election. Jordan even led a conference call on Jan 2, 2021—just days before Congress was to meet on Jan 6 to certify President Joe Biden’s win—that included Trump and other members of Congress where they “discussed strategies for delaying the January 6th joint session.” Perhaps Jordan’s skills in attempting to overturn a lawful election are transferable to developing sound public policy that will guarantee older Americans can age with dignity?!
Are these the type of people you actually trust with your Social Security?!
Now if Pence’s idea of allowing people to invest their Social Security tax dollars in a private account sounds familiar that’s because in 2005, then President George W. Bush proposed a similar idea with very almost identical language. For example, Bush stated in his 2005 State of the Union: “We must make Social Security a better deal for younger workers through voluntary personal retirement accounts.”
Bush sought to build support for this horrible idea by travelling the nation. But Bush was soon confronted with a strong backlash from groups like AARP that spent millions running ads featuring a middle aged couple saying in response to Bush’s proposal, “If we feel like gambling, we'll play the slots." Bush’s approval ratings on Social Security soon began to plummet. In January 2005, a Washington Post/ABC poll found that when Bush kicked off his campaign to sell Americans on the idea of privatizing Social Security, 55 percent of respondents disapproved of his Social Security handling. By April, that number had jumped to 64 percent. It wasn’t long until Bush ended his campaign to rewrite the program.
In 1934, when President Roosevelt introduced his Social Security legislation, he noted the stark world facing many, “Old age…for many people the most tragic of all hazards,” adding, “There is no tragedy in growing old, but there is tragedy in growing old without means of support.” We can’t go back to that reality.
The reality is the GOP does not want government to help people. That goes against the DNA of the Republican Party best summed up by Ronald Reagan’s infamous quote: “The top 9 most terrifying words in the English Language are: I'm from the government, and I'm here to help.” That is why they want to gut Social Security and long been hostile to Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA.
Indeed, it was Democratic Presidents who enacted Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance program, the Affordable Care Act that mandates insurance carrier’s to cover pre-existing conditions and more.
What have GOP President’s delivered in the modern era? Tax cuts for the wealthy, the Iraq War based on lies, 2020 election lies and the Jan 6 attack.
The truth is Social Security is fully funded to 2035. Having a good faith discussion on robustly funding the program beyond that –such as lifting the cap on earnings subject to Social Security tax from the current rate of $160,000 to all income-is needed. Recycling old, bad ideas like Pence is now peddling, though, should be a non-starter—especially given the composition of the House GOP that would be involved crafting any such legislation. All Americans deserve the right to age with dignity, not have political games played with their golden years like Pence is proposing.
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