The Biden White House has tried since President Joe Biden’s inauguration to move past the Trump years and to focus instead on strengthening democracy by rebuilding the American middle class and by renewing our alliances and friendships with democratic allies. As his message has repeatedly been drowned out by the cultural messaging of the Republicans, Biden has begun to criticize their economic plans more directly, especially in the last few weeks. Today the White House released a fact sheet laying out exactly what it would look like to have the Republicans’ economic plans put into effect.
The Republican Party as a whole has not put forward a legislative agenda before this election to attract voters. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told donors, lobbyists, and senators in December 2021 that the party would focus only on attacking Biden and the Democrats. A Republican operative told Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene of Axios, “One of the biggest mistakes challengers often make is thinking campaigns are about them and their ideas…. No one gives a sh*t about that. Elections are referendums on incumbents.”
Other Republicans disagreed with McConnell and have offered plans that cater to their base but run the risk of alienating non-MAGA voters. The White House highlighted some of those points today, focusing on prescription drug costs, Social Security, and Medicare.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which passed in August with Democratic votes alone, allows Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, caps the annual cost of medication at $2,000, caps insulin costs for those on Medicare at $35 a month, and lowers health care premiums for those whose coverage comes from the Affordable Care Act.
The White House said that Republicans want to repeal these measures, and in October, Senate Republicans James Lankford (OK), Mike Lee (UT), Cynthia Lummis (WY), and Marco Rubio (FL) in fact introduced the “Protecting Drug Innovation Act” to remove the negotiation ability, price caps, and health care premium adjustments in the Inflation Reduction Act “as if such parts had never been enacted.” Lee explained that “price controls never work” but instead “exacerbate the problems they seek to resolve. Mandating fixed prescription drug prices will ultimately result in the shortening of American lives.”
Republican leaders have also called for policies that threaten Social Security and Medicare. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which funds senatorial campaigns, issued an eleven-point plan to “Rescue America” that called for—among other things—sunsetting all laws five years after passage and reauthorizing the ones that lawmakers wanted to keep. (Scott later added a twelfth point to the plan: cutting taxes.)
When challenged that his plan would threaten Medicare, Scott has repeated a talking point that Politifact, the Washington Post Fact Checker, CNN, and FactCheck.org have all called false: that Democrats are threatening Medicare because they “cut $280 billion out of Medicare.” In fact, the Inflation Reduction Act saves the government—and therefore taxpayers—somewhere between $237 billion and $288 billion by permitting it to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies; it does not cut services. In other words, Scott is lying that reduced government spending on Medicare thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act—savings the Republicans want to end—is the same thing as calling to sunset the program in five years.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has called for making the funding for Social Security and Medicare discretionary, meaning it would have to be voted on annually, rather than leaving it as mandatory, covered by statute. “We’ve got to turn everything into discretionary spending, so it’s all evaluated, so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken, that are going to be going bankrupt,” Johnson told a right-wing radio show. “Because, again, as long as things are on automatic pilot, we just continue to pile up debt.”
Like the plans of other Republicans, those of the Republican Study Committee (RSC), chaired by Representative Jim Banks of Indiana, start from the position that taxes on the wealthy hurt workers by causing “the misallocation of capital, creating a less robust economy, and leading to slower wage growth and job creation.” The RSC released a budget in September that rejected the idea of raising taxes to stabilize Medicare and Social Security and instead called for increasing the age for Medicare eligibility to 67 and that for Social Security eligibility to 70.
The Republican argument for weakening these popular programs is that they are too big a drain on the federal budget and that it is important to continue cutting taxes on the wealthy in order to free up capital for them to reinvest in the economy. This has been Republicans’ argument since 1980, but it has never produced either the economic growth or the tax revenue its supporters promised. In contrast, Biden and the Democrats maintain that cutting the nation’s social safety net will create hardship that will not be offset by tax cuts for the wealthy.
Biden and former president Barack Obama, who has been speaking in states with close races, have repeatedly made the point that Americans pay into Social Security throughout their working lives and have earned the payments they eventually receive. Today, in front of an audience in Florida, Biden read directly from Scott’s plan to sunset laws, quoted Johnson’s plan to make Social Security discretionary, and said “Who in the hell do they think they are?”
I'm curious to know how many Floridians currently collecting social security are paying attention to what Rick Scott and Ron Johnson are proposing.
Been reading HCR almost since the inception, and never commented before... what could I add after all, to her sterling scholarship, but considering the importance of this new month...
I must say, although I am sure you are all lovely people, and finding a group of like minded souls who share both my bottomless love for this country as well as an abiding anxiety over the current precarious state of affairs is refreshing...
I must say I so rarely read the comments. There is simply so much - too much - catastrophizing, especially over the last few days. Hey, no judgement, I do it too; it's the downside to being a person who cares a lot about things that actually matter.
I have a suspicion that I, at 27, am a bit younger than the median reader of this newsletter. I mention it only because this is the point at which a youthful perspective might be valuable. It seems to me that many readers seem to have spent the post-'16 years undergoing a sort of continuous processing of trauma, experiencing an essential sense of safety and assurance ripped away and a deep injury inflicted. For someone of my age, though, this sense of assurance - the experience of America as a continuously improving and prosperous superpower, the experience of an expectation of comfort in the future, the assumption that the neighbors around you are fundamentally caring - all of this couldn't be ripped away because it never was there to begin with.
From kindergarten on, we have lived in the shadow of terrorism, from middle school on the stark reality of the housing crash, from high school on the age of information overload and the creeping knowledge of a burning atmosphere. All of those years marked by at least one instance of some screen blaring something for a few days reminding you you were lucky to not be shot before you got home like those kids in that other state, only to be interrupted by overhearing a comment that the real problem with the kids today is they can't get off those darn screens.
But here's the thing. We aren't bemoaning how the forces of evil are encroaching again, to leave a certainly doomed planet to our children. We are those children. We are alive for a while yet, and I'll be damned if the rest of my days will be lived on a dying planet surrounded by encroaching forces of evil. It is not an acceptable outcome for my life. It isn't something I asked for or deserved. It isn't something I will let happen.
Don't apologize to me for how the world was messed up by the time I showed up on the scene. Help me un-mess it, please. Don't proclaim how my generation and the one after are so impressive and will help save us all. Help us save us. Now, please.
Look, next week's elections could equally and plausibly cover a range of outcomes from total catastrophe to total triumph (For Democrats, that is. I'm assuming you all are Democratically-minded). Anyone who says they know what will happen is lying or clueless. There has simply never been a midterm where *both* parties were engaged to such a high degree. That poll aggregate that shows us down by 0.9%? Don't despair, for it is truly useless... polls are always off slightly, and that's way within any margin of error. We could lose even bigger, or end up flipping the script enitrely. That aggregate that said we were up by 0.8%? Don't be cheerful, same thing applies. Early voting and special elections are making us look on the good side of all right. Election Day could wash it away or build upon it further. You can be an optimist or a pessimist; but how you position yourself on that spectrum won't change the outcome, whatever it is.
If the neo-fascists creep close to the door again because the idiotic dandelions that pass themselves off as "independents" can't elevate human rights for one second over grumpiness about egg prices, that's not going to stop me from getting the future I need and deserve. A setback, no matter how severe, is not the apocalypse. This country isn't over, because I need to live here for awhile and I refuse for that to happen.
And if the newly awakened and activated post-'16 liberal cohort manages to drag this great government of ours across the finish line by force of will, that's not going to get me to rest. A victory, no matter how heartening, is not the end of the movie. We are never out of the woods, and there is work for us yet regardless.
All right, I'm done. Gotta get rest before my Christy Smith phonebank. G'night all.