The GOP Field On Earned Benefits Cuts: You’re Gonna Have To Get Over It

Unapologetic threats to programs vital to millions of Americans, Rubio, Bush, Cruz, and the rest of the candidates on stage tonight all want to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

  • Marco Rubio, who thinks Social Security has “weakened us as a people,” supports means-testing Social Security and raising the retirement age. He’d also partially voucherize Medicare by moving to a premium-support system — pushing retirees to private plans.
  • A 2016 champion of Mitt Romney-esque “free stuff” aloofness, Jeb Bush would similarly raise the retirement age — and he’d even cut benefits for seniors who retire early. In addition to supporting Medicare means-testing that would limit eligibility, Bush wants to move toward private plans — and he’s even floated a “phase out” of the program.
  • Ted Cruz wants to raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare — and he’d shift the latter program to private vouchers. He also supports private accounts for Social Security — and would impose means-testing for both programs.
  • Ben Carson wants to raise the retirement age, but he wouldn’t stop there. Carson said he’d eliminate Medicare entirely. He succinctly made his attitude toward entitlements very clear this Fall when he said: “Get rid of them.”
  • John Kasich’s budget plan would cut Medicare. And, as far as Social Security goes: “You’re gonna have to get over [reduced benefits],” he warned a concerned voter in early October.

The GOP field’s unfiltered, disdainful rhetoric and out-of-touch proposals to cut earned benefits are explicit threats on the well-being of seniors, future retirees, and the millions of Americans who obtain healthcare through Medicaid.

Background:

The Republican Field Will Weaken Social Security And Medicare

Rubio

RUBIO: SOCIAL SECURITY AND MEDICARE “WEAKENED US AS A PEOPLE”

2011: Rubio Said That Entitlement Programs “Weakened Our People In A Way That Undermined Our Ability To Maintain Our Prosperity.” According to Sarasota Herald Tribune, “Rubio has drawn flak this week from Democrats and retirement experts for his comments that such programs have ‘weakened us as a people.’ […] ‘All that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities,’ […] ‘All of the sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.’ […] ‘It weakened our people in a way that undermined our ability to maintain our prosperity.” [Sarasota Herald Tribune, 8/26/11]

  • [Video] Rubio Said That Social Security And Medicare “Weakened Us As People.” While speaking at Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, Rubio said, “These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities. All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.” [Reagan Library, 8/23/11]

2011: Rubio Stated America Must Embrace “Certain Principles That Are Absolutely True” Such As, Free Enterprise “Does Not Create Poverty,” And “Social Problems Create Our Poverty.” While speaking at the Ronald Reagan Library in California Rubio said, “We must begin by embracing certain principles that are absolutely true. Number one – the free enterprise system does not create poverty. Every nation that embraces market economics and the free enterprise system is pulling millions of its people out of poverty. The free enterprise system creates prosperity. The second truism is that poverty does not create our social problems, our social problems create our poverty. “[Miami Herald, 8/27/11]

Supported Means Testing Social Security, Raising Retirement Age

Rubio Pledged To “Reduce the Growth In Benefits For Upper-Income Seniors While Strengthening The [Social Security And Medicare] Program For Low-Income Seniors.”According to MarcoRubio.com, “These programs won’t be around for future generations unless something is done to reform them, however. For future retirees, Marco will: […] Reduce the growth in benefits for upper-income seniors while strengthening the program for low-income seniors” [MarcoRubio.com, Accessed 10/22/15]

Rubio Pledged To “Gradually Increase The Retirement Age For Future Retirees.”According to MarcoRubio.com, “These programs won’t be around for future generations unless something is done to reform them, however. For future retirees, Marco will: Gradually increase the retirement age for future retirees, to keep up with changes in life expectancy” [MarcoRubio.com, Accessed 10/22/15]

Supported Transitioning To A Premium Support System For Medicare

Rubio Pledged To “Transition Medicare To A Premium-Support System,” That He Claimed Would “Give Seniors A Generous But Fixed Amount With Which To Purchase Health Coverage, Either From Medicare Or A Private Provider.” According to MarcoRubio.com, “These programs won’t be around for future generations unless something is done to reform them, however. For future retirees, Marco will: […] Transition Medicare to a premium-support system, which would give seniors a generous but fixed amount with which to purchase health coverage, either from Medicare or a private provider” [MarcoRubio.com, Accessed 10/22/15]

Bush

Proposed Reducing Social Security Benefits

Jeb Bush Proposed Reducing Benefits For Seniors Who Retire Earlier, While Removing Disincentives For Those Who Work Past Age 66. According to the Wall Street Journal, “On Social Security, Mr. Bush would reduce benefits for seniors who retire earlier—currently seniors can collect a smaller check as early as age 62—while removing taxes and other disincentives for those who work past age 66, which is the current retirement age, to encourage higher workforce participation among seniors.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/27/15]

Supported Raising Retirement Age

Jeb Bush Favored Raising The Retirement Age For Social Security Beyond 67. According to CNN, “‘If we do not have an honest conversation about what it will take to protect Medicare and Social Security, we fail seniors and we will fail the next generation of Americans,’ Bush says in a Medium post set to publish on Tuesday. The Republican presidential candidate, according to information provided by his campaign, favors raising the retirement age for Social Security beyond its current target age of 67, starting in 2022 by gradually increasing the age by one month every year. That means by 2058, when life expectancy is expected to be longer, workers would have to be 70 to claim full benefits — or 65 for early benefits.” [CNN, 10/27/15]

Called To “Phase Out” Medicare

Jeb Bush Called For The Phase Out Of Medicare; Said “We Need To Figure Out A Way To Phase Out This Program For Others And Move To A New System That Allows Them To Have Something.” According to MSNBC, “Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush appeared at a New Hampshire event last night sponsored by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity, and the former governor raised a few eyebrows with his comments on the future of Medicare. ‘The left needs to join the conversation, but they haven’t. I mean, when [Rep. Paul Ryan] came up with, one of his proposals as it relates to Medicare, the first thing I saw was a TV ad of a guy that looked just like Paul Ryan … that was pushing an elderly person off the cliff in a wheelchair. That’s their response. ‘And I think we need to be vigilant about this and persuade people that our, when your volunteers go door to door, and they talk to people, people understand this. They know, and I think a lot of people recognize that we need to make sure we fulfill the commitment to people that have already received the benefits, that are receiving the benefits. But that we need to figure out a way to phase out this program for others and move to a new system that allows them to have something – because they’re not going to have anything.’” [MSNBC, 7/23/15]

Jeb Bush Proposed Means-Testing For Medicare Premiums. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Many Democrats don’t support the proposal because they say it would limit health-care coverage for seniors, but many Republicans have said it would offer more choices to seniors, spurring private-market competition and holding down federal health care costs. Mr. Bush’s plan would also implement means-testing for Medicare premiums, reducing the amount of subsidy the government kicks in for higher-income Americans. For example, a senior making $160,000 would receive a 35% premium subsidy from the government, compared with 50% currently.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/27/15]

TIME: “Bush Would Scale Back Medicare Spending, In A Plan That Echoed The Proposals Of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.” According to TIME, “Bush would scale back Medicare spending, in a plan that echoed the proposals of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, while providing seniors with ‘premium support,’ a fixed amount for guaranteed coverage options, allowing them to buy coverage from private insurers. He would also reduce the levels of government subsidies for individuals making more than $85,000 a year. ‘This is not about changing the program for those who already have it,’ he said. ‘If we do not have an honest conversation about what it will take to protect Medicare and Social Security, we fail seniors and we will fail the next generation of Americans.’” [TIME, 10/27/15]

Wall Street Journal: On Medicare, Jeb Bush “Proposed A Model Similar To The One Offered By Rep. Paul Ryan.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “On Medicare, Mr. Bush proposed a model similar to one offered by Rep. Paul Ryan, (R., Wis.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He called for a ‘premium-support’ plan that allows Americans to choose private insurance plans or to enroll in traditional Medicare. The government would then contribute a set amount toward the insurance premium.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/27/15]

Cruz

Supported Raising The Medicare Eligibility Age And Shifting To A Premium Support Plan

Cruz Said That “We Must Save Medicare By Gradually Increasing The Eligibility Age And By Moving To A Premium Support System That Expands Choices For Seniors.” According to the AARP Senate Voter Guide, “Q: How would you put Medicare on stronger financial ground and protect today’s seniors and future retirees from the burden of rising health costs? A: We must save Medicare by gradually increasing the eligibility age and by moving to a premium support system that expands choices for seniors, opens up innovation, and utilizes market forces to rein in healthcare costs.” [AARP Senate Voter Guide, 8/24/12]

Cruz Supported Means Testing Entitlement Programs

Cruz Said He Supported Means Testing For Entitlement Programs. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz said, “HANNITY: Every year, it must be in balance. With the penny plan, it would cut one penny out of every dollar every year for six years, and you would get without growth a balanced budget in six years. Would you support cutting a penny out of every dollar, defense, Social Security, Medicare? CRUZ: You’re going to be hard pressed to come up with a cost-cutting program that I’m not going to support. I do think the military — we need to look at the growing national security threats and we need to make sure we take care of the men and women in the military and we provide what we need to protect this nation. And also, if you look at the budget, you cannot bring the budget into control without taking on entitlement reform. Two thirds of the federal budget is entitlements. So if you don’t talk about entitlements, you can’t do it. HANNITY: Entitlements. Means testing? CRUZ: Absolutely. HANNITY: Raise the age of eligibility? CRUZ: Sure. Yes.” [Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity interview, 3/23/15]

Cruz Supported Raising The Retirement Age And Private Accounts For Social Security

Cruz Supported Creating Personal Social Security Accounts And Raising The Retirement Age For Younger Workers. According to the transcript of the third Republican debate via The Washington Post, Cruz said, “It is hard to find someone in my generation that thinks Social Security will be there for us. We can save and preserve and strengthen Social Security by making no changes for seniors, but for younger workers gradually increasing the retirement age, changing the rate of growth so that it matches inflation, and critically allowing younger workers to keep a portion of our tax payments in a personal account that we own, we control them, we can pass on to our kids.” [Washington Post, 10/28/15]

Cruz Supported Creation Of Personal Accounts For Social Security. According to a Video From the Texas Tribune Cruz said, “But the third change, that I think is absolutely critical, is to allow taxpayers to have a portion of their social security funds go to a personal account that they own and control.” [Texas Tribune, 9/11/2011]

Cruz Said George W. Bush’s Push To Privatize Social Security Was “The Right Thing To Do.” While appearing on CNBC, Ted Cruz said, “Cruz: That was a policy fight I was not engaged in at the time. I’ll tell you what wasn’t right. When George W. Bush entered office, the national debt was $5 trillion. When he left, it was $10 trillion. I think the administration spent too much money. Now, I also think you’ve got to give George W. Bush some real credit—he showed remarkable courage in the beginning of the second term taking on Social Security reform and personal accounts. It was the right thing to do. Sadly, congressional Republicans ran to the hills and abandoned him.” [CNBC, 4/9/15]

Cruz: Preserve Social Security By “Allowing Younger Workers To Keep A Portion Of Our Tax Payments In A Personal Account That We Own” And “Pass On To Our Kids.” According to the transcript of the third Republican debate via The Washington Post, Cruz said, “It is hard to find someone in my generation that thinks Social Security will be there for us. We can save and preserve and strengthen Social Security by making no changes for seniors, but for younger workers gradually increasing the retirement age, changing the rate of growth so that it matches inflation, and critically allowing younger workers to keep a portion of our tax payments in a personal account that we own, we control them, we can pass on to our kids.” [Washington Post, 10/28/15]

Cruz Said The Retirement Age Should Gradually Be Raised For Younger People And Change The Rate Of The Growth Of Social Security Benefits To Match Inflation. While appearing on CNBC, Ted Cruz said, “Cruz: Oh, I understand why they call for that. But I don’t agree with them. What I would like to see is several things. Number one, for those on Social Security or near retirement, no changes whatsoever. Honor the commitments. But for younger people, people in my generation, we should gradually increase the retirement age. Secondly we need to change the rate of growth of Social Security benefits so they match inflation rather than exceed inflation. Those two reforms on their own take Social Security from bankruptcy into solvency. But the third piece, and it’s what Bush fought for, is personal accounts. I think it is transformative to allow younger workers to put a portion of their taxes into a personal account that they own, that they control, and that they can pass onto their heirs.” [CNBC, 4/9/15]

Carson

Carson Wanted To Abolish Medicare

Carson Wanted To Abolish Medicare. According to Politico, “Republicans have fended off accusations for years that they’d gut Medicare for seniors and end the program ‘as we know it.’ Not Ben Carson. The former neurosurgeon acknowledges he would abolish the program altogether.” [Politico, 10/22/15]

Carson Wanted To Replace Medicare With A Cradle-To-Grave Savings System With Accounts That Receive $2,000 Annually For Medical Expenses. According to Politico, “Carson, who now leads the GOP field in Iowa according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll, would eliminate the program that provides health care to 49 million senior citizens, as well as Medicaid, and replace it with a system of cradle-to-grave savings accounts which would be funded with $2,000 a year in government contributions.” [Politico, 10/22/15]

Carson’s Plan Allocated $2,000 Per Year To A Personalized Savings Account To be Used For Health Care, With A Third Of The Funding To Be Earmarked For Insurance To Cover Severe Medical Incidents. According to Politico, “Under the plan Carson outlined most specifically last year, the government would contribute $2,000 to each individual’s tax-free account every year, with a third of the funding earmarked for insurance to cover severe medical incidents. Individuals and employers could contribute additional funds to the accounts, and the unspent funds could be shared among family members, which Carson says ‘makes every family their own insurance company.’”[Politico, 10/22/15]

  • Individuals And Employers Could Contribute More And The Funds Could be Shared Among Family Members. According to Politico, “Under the plan Carson outlined most specifically last year, the government would contribute $2,000 to each individual’s tax-free account every year, with a third of the funding earmarked for insurance to cover severe medical incidents. Individuals and employers could contribute additional funds to the accounts, and the unspent funds could be shared among family members, which Carson says ‘makes every family their own insurance company.’”[Politico, 10/22/15]

Carson Wanted To Raise The Social Security Retirement Age

Carson Wanted To Raise The Social Security Age Gradually For Those Under 55.According to CNBC, “Ben Carson also wants to gradually raise the full retirement age (now 66) for those under 55. So do Macro Rubio, Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. The logic here is that those under 55 will live and collect longer, so it’s only fair for them to wait to receive full benefits.” [CNBC, 10/26/15]

Saying We Need To “Adjust To A Changing Situation” Carson Argued “The Age At Which Benefits Are Distributed Should Be Gradually Raised.” According to an interview with Forbes, Carson said, “When Social Security was first enacted, the average age of death was about 63 years. It is now approaching 80 years and rising. Obviously we have to adjust to a changing situation. The age at which benefits are distributed should be gradually raised. I stress the word gradually because people must be given a chance to adjust their plans and expectations. It must be forbidden by law for government to use any of the money that has been set aside for Social Security.” [Forbes, 1/29/15]

Kasich

Kasich To Seniors: “Get Over” Lower Social Security Payments

2015: Kasich Told NH Town Hall Attendee “You’re Going To Have Get Over” Reduced Social Security Payment. According to UPI, “During a ‘Fiscal Fridays’ event in New Hampshire, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told an audience member to ‘get over’ his proposed reforms to Social Security. During the event, the Republican presidential candidate said a balanced budget cannot be had without reform to entitlements like Social Security. He later said he was part of a 1990s effort to reform Medicare and Medicaid and that he sought to minimize benefits for individuals not yet near the eligible age. Kasich asked audience members not yet near the eligible age for Social Security payments to raise their hand. He then asked if they knew what their initial payment would be and asked if they would mind a slightly lower payment for the benefit of the whole country. When one individual said they would mind, Kasich jokingly said ‘you’re going to have get over it.’ The remark drew laughs from the audience and moderator.” [UPI, 10/10/15]

Kasich Budget Would Cut Medicare

AP: Kasich’s Budget Plan Includes “Cuts To Medicare.” According to the Associated Press, “He does propose cuts to Medicare that would slow the growth rate of the health care program for more than 50 million elderly and disabled people.” [Associated Press, 10/15/15]