So Mike Pence wants to run in the Privatize Social Security lane. He’s now publicly embracing his old austeritarian self— the opposite direction Trump has been trumpeting. Yesterday, a new Marist poll asked registered Republicans if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of four likely 2024 presidential candidates. He had the highest unfavorable rating.
Trump- 68% favorable, 25% unfavorable
DeSantis- 66% favorable, 11% unfavorable
Pence- 51% favorable, 30% unfavorable
Nikki Haley- 41% favorable, 12% unfavorable
I wonder if he thinks that coming out against Social Security will help his case with GOP primary voters. The way Jonathan Allen reported it yesterday, Pence was still tiptoeing around the tulips but not really fooling anyone with his subterfuge and dissimulation. What Pence said yesterday on CNBC’s Squawk Box was that cuts to Medicare and Social Security should be “on the table for the long term… We're looking at a debt crisis in this country over the next 25 years that's driven by entitlements, and nobody in Washington, D.C., wants to talk about it.”
On Monday, Trump reiterated his position: “Under no circumstances will we allow anyone to cut Medicare or Social Security for our nation's seniors. We're not going to allow that. They paid in, and you can't allow it and you shouldn't allow it.” That isn’t really so different from the standard GOP position, which is leave the current seniors alone and then wreck the system for future generations. Trump posted on his pretend-Twitter site: “Ron DeSanctimonious wants to cut your Social Security and Medicare.” When he was in Congress, DeSantis voted to raise the retirement age and to privatize Medicare.
And speaking of Austerity and cuts to the social safety network, Mr. Austerity himself, Paul Ryan, reared his head again on Tuesday, coming down on Pence’s side in the privatization debate. Dubbing Trump a “proven loser” in an interview, he said “Biden and Trump— and I lump them in the same sentence— Biden and Trump are doing the opposite of leadership. They’re trying to scare people, and they’re playing political demagoguery with one of the most important issues facing our country this century… Do I think our party has done some backsliding? Yes, because of Trump populism. But I still believe there’s a very big core in our party that understands the magnitude of this issue, wants to be responsible and fix this problem before it gets ugly and out of control… I think what happened in my party is people got intimidated by the politics. And Trump, who has chosen to engage in demagogic entitlement populism, has led a lot of people away from being responsible and from doing the right thing.”
Trump reminded people that “It is stunning a loser like Paul Ryan is doubling down on cutting Medicare and Social Security for elderly Americans. Any candidate who backs cutting Medicare and Social Security is doomed.”
Mark Takano, on the other hand, sees things very differently than Pence (or Ryan). "Former Vice President Pence aided a President that increased our national deficit by billions of dollars, but now when it is time to pay America’s bills, he thinks slashing Social Security and Medicare is the solution,” the Riverside congressman told me last night. "Republicans claim that our debt is driven by these mandatory spending programs, but don’t have any solutions to support our seniors."
Matt Cartwright has been one of Congress’ most vocal defenders of Social Security and Medicare since he was first elected to represent northeast Pennsylvania. He watched Pence’s CNBC clip as well. He told me that "Today Mike Pence reminded us what the Republican party is all about. Pence’s idea of turning Social Security into ‘personal savings accounts’ is just another way of saying he wants to privatize the program, which of course includes allowing investing in the stock market. If people poured trillions in Social Security money into the stock market, the economic royalists already in the stock market would watch their portfolios go way, way up. Putting your money in the stock market is risky. The last time the Republicans were pushing this scheme was in 2006, right before the stock market crashed. They’re hoping you don’t remember that. That scheme did not pass, and so Social Security kept millions of American seniors out of poverty during that recession.
"So," continued Cartwright, "it’s as simple as that: the GOP is very happy to have American seniors put their retirement at risk, because it will help the rich get richer. And don’t blame our seniors for the national debt. Notice what Pence didn’t dare mention: the biggest thing driving our national deficit is the 2017 Republican tax plan, the one that continues to give 86% of its cuts to huge corporations and the very richest among us. They can afford to pay more to balance the budget. Our seniors can’t."
This morning Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told me that "Mike Pence keeps saying the quiet part out loud: Republicans want to cut Social Security and Medicare. They try to cloak this by talking about the deficit— but they never mention that one of the most effective ways to cut the deficit is by raising revenue-- from taxes on the wealthiest. Republicans have done the opposite of this: from the Bush tax cuts to the Trump tax cuts, they INCREASED the deficit by reducing revenue dramatically while ensuring that the tax cuts went to the wealthiest 1% of individuals and corporations. They certainly never talked about increasing the national debt then. Indeed, even now, as they hypocritically talk about reducing the deficit by cutting Social Security and Medicare, they are pushing for more tax cuts for the wealthy—and more debt so working and poor Americans pay for rich people to get richer. To be clear, Social Security and Medicare are earned benefits not entitlements. You pay into them while you are working with the promise that when you retire, you will be taken care of at a basic level. If Republicans really care about the deficit, they would embrace President Biden’s plan to tax billionaires and increase taxes on stock buybacks— that could bring in over $350 billion right away— rather than cutting Social Security and Medicare. Keep talking, Mike Pence. You’re just telling seniors the truth about exactly what Republicans want to do."