How to Bring Social Security and Medicare Spending Under Control

(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) thinks it’s long past time to bring the Social Security and Medicare programs under control. And the best way to do that is to make them part of the discretionary budget rather than leaving them as mandatory programs.


It’s hardly a new idea. But with the federal budget deficit close to a trillion dollars and both entitlement programs being a major reason for the shortfall, perhaps it’s time for some congressional oversight in order to find a way to get those costs under control.

“If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost. And our problem in this country is that more than 70% of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It’s on automatic pilot, Johnson said on the Morning Joe show.

“It never, you just don’t do proper oversight. You don’t get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt, it’s just on automatic pilot. What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so it’s all evaluated so that we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken.

“Again, as long as things are on automatic pilot we just continue to pile up debt,” Johnson added, saying massive deficit spending was sparking inflation.

Johnson made those remarks in the context of a discussion about the recent debate about adding veterans who have been exposed to toxins from burn pits to a mandatory funding program at the VA. Republicans didn’t oppose the bill because they hate veterans and want them to die, as comedian John Stewart alleged. GOP opposition was to the language in the bill that moved the spending from discretionary spending as part of the veteran’s affairs budget to the mandatory spending part of the budget.

The bill eventually passed after Republicans were raked over the coals for trying to do their jobs as guardians of the public purse. But it leaves the door wide open for the Democrats to cram other programs unrelated to burn pits into the veteran’s affairs budget. They, too, would fall under “mandatory spending.”

But the real boon for Democrats is not the extra billions they get to dole out. Ron Johnson is one of the most vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents, and he just created an opening for his opponent so big you could drive a semi through it.

In response, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who became the presumptive Democratic U.S. Senate nominee after his top Democratic opponents dropped out last week, called Johnson a self-serving multimillionaire senator who “wants to strip working people of the Social Security and Medicare they’ve earned.”

“Wisconsinites pay into Social Security through a lifetime of hard work, and they’re counting on this program and Medicare — but Ron Johnson just doesn’t care,” he added.

Johnson never said a word about cutting Social Security. But it’s going to make a great campaign commercial.

Henning, who is also a spokesperson for Johnson’s campaign, said Barnes’ accusation that Johnson wants to strip Wisconsinites of Social Security and Medicare was a lie.

“He said he wants to save the programs to ensure that seniors don’t need to question whether the programs they depend on remain solvent,” she said. “Another desperate attempt by the Democrats to smear Ron Johnson since they cannot defend their own records or Biden’s disastrous policy failures that are causing harm to Wisconsinites.”

Both Medicare and Social Security are approaching insolvency. Both programs are facing economic ruin beginning in 2028. From there, various trust funds will go broke and will eventually need to be funded from general revenues anyway. The farther out we can deal with the problem of Medicare and Social Security insolvency, the less painful it will be to fix.

Johnson’s foresight may cost him at the polls. But in about a decade, he’s going to look like a genius.



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