Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is responding to the coronavirus pandemic with the HEALS Act, legislation that is designed, among other things, to cut Social Security and Medicare. To be sure, McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans are not saying publicly that their next stimulus package includes provisions that would make it easy for them to slash Social Security and Medicare behind closed doors and quickly. But, they are tying any new Congressional appropriations to stimulate the economy and help Americans to their ability to sacrifice people’s Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Instead of a bill that would strengthen Americans’ economic security, the Senate Republicans’ $1 trillion bill would endanger it. The HEALS Act incorporates a bill introduced by Mitt Romney, The TRUST Act, which would establish a bi-partisan committee to finds ways to reduce people’s earned Medicare and Social Security benefits.
Through the HEALS Act, the Trump Administration and the Republicans in Congress could trade away retirement security for Americans under the pretense that they were reducing the deficit. But, Social Security has no effect on the deficit, as Ronald Reagan explained years ago. And, Medicare is critical to the health security of older adults and people with disabilities and should not be cut.
The best way to address shortfalls in the Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds–what the public supports–is to raise taxes, particularly on the wealthiest Americans. Representative John Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act does just that. The public overwhelmingly opposes cuts to these programs.
It’s up to the Democrats to refuse to entertain a stimulus package that includes the TRUST Act. Cuts to Social Security and Medicare are wrong, unnecessary and have nothing at all to do with fighting the coronavirus pandemic or promoting people’s economic security. What’s more, the Republican bill reduces weekly emergency unemployment checks by $400 to $200, while allocating $1.75 billion to new headquarters for the FBI.
Alex Lawson of Social Security Works reports that “Prominent Democrats are speaking out against it, including Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee and lead Senate negotiator on the relief packages.” Says Wyden: “True to form, Republicans are trying to gut Social Security and Medicare in the middle of a pandemic. This bill doubles down on using secret, closed-door panels to undo these earned benefits. I will oppose any bill that includes a fast lane to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
The Republican bill does include a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans with annual adjusted gross incomes at or below $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for head of household filers, and $150,000 for married couples who file jointly. Married couples each receive $1,200. And, they receive $500 more for each qualifying child. This is one area where the Democrats and Republicans appear to be almost aligned. The Democrats want Americans to receive $1,200 for each qualifying child.
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