When GOP Sen. Tom Coburn and Rep. Jeb Hensarling tried to blame the deficit on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on ABC’s This Week, they were met with an immediate eruption of facts from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Rep. Raul Grijalva.
Transcript from ABC’s This Week:
HENSARLING: I give him an A for honesty, but an F for effort. You can’t get it done, George. You can’t take us off the road to bankruptcy unless you deal with the structural reforms to our entitlement spending, protecting current seniors, but helping ensure that my 10-year-old son and — my 10-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son that these programs are around for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Senator Coburn, what about the point that Senator Stabenow made before, in the — President Obama’s health care act, $716 billion in Medicare savings, which a lot of Republicans — not you — but a lot of Republicans in the last campaign, including Governor Romney and his presidential campaign, ran against.
COBURN: Well — well, George, first of all, the $700 billion in savings doesn’t save the government a penny, because what it does is it takes that $700 billion and it spends it on other people. So what — it’s really important that people look — the government’s twice the size it was 11 years ago. We’ve all — we’ve seen the president demand that we’re going to solve 7 percent of this problem, but he’s totally inflexible on the other 93 percent.
It doesn’t really matter what happens at the end of this year, because ultimately the numbers and the bondholders throughout the world will determine what we’ll spend and what we won’t. So we can play the political game that is being played out in Washington right now or we can actually be absolutely honest with the American people and say, Medicare is going bankrupt, Social Security bankrupt — disability would be bankrupt in two years, Social Security trust fund will be bankrupt in five years, Social Security total will be bankrupt in probably 16, 17 years. Those are worst-case scenarios by the trustees of both those organizations.
STABENOW: You know what, George? If I might just jump in, George, on that one, first of all, and say Social Security is not going bankrupt. We’re making reforms in Medicare. In fact, the costs for Medicare Advantage have gone down, the premiums, by 7 percent for seniors because what we’ve done.
But what’s going to happen at the end of the year if the House doesn’t act is middle-class families are going to see a tax cut — or a tax increase that’s going to be at least $2,200 per person. And I can tell you from one of my constituents who said that’s four months’ groceries for her family.
GRIJALVA: I think the leverage is there for the president, George. I really do. I’m happy the president and the Democrats are not negotiating with themselves this round. They’re actually negotiating with people that are in a position in the House to make the decisions.
And — and if the middle class is — if that’s the vote we take, that is a good vote, it is a step toward in a direction. But I think that one of the issues that’s being left alone in this whole discussion is the amnesia of how we got into this situation, who’s responsible for the situation. And to blame the three programs that we’re talking about — Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — as the drivers of this deficit is a mistake.
The drivers happened long ago, two wars on a credit card, financial institutions that didn’t — that took — abused the American people, and now we’re being asked to go back to the same people that have endured this crisis and ask them to pay up again. No. No.
According to this graph from The New York Times, the Democrats are correct:
The deficit has been driven by two of the beloved Republican sacred cows, the Bush tax cuts, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democrats and President Obama have been arguing for nearly two years that ending the Bush tax cuts and the wars will improve the nation’s fiscal health, and the majority of Americans seem to agree.
Social Security doesn’t add a single dime to the deficit. The Republican chatter about Social Security going bankrupt is designed to scare Americans into supporting privatization. Due to the aging of the Baby Boomers, Medicare will have be reformed. But reforming the program, is not the same thing as the privatization plan that Republicans are pushing.
Democrats have popular support on their side, the stronger message, and a united front. They aren’t going to negotiate with themselves this time. Democrats are coming strong at the Republican privatization schemes couched in the language of deficit reduction.
Democrats aren’t budging, and the biggest change of all is that they are refusing to treat conservative ideology as a legitimate policy option.
Trapped by their own failed ideology, all Republicans like Coburn and Hensarling can do is dig themselves a deeper hole with the American people.