As most voters are aware, there will be elections this fall. All seats in the House of Representatives are up for election as are one-third of the seats in the Senate.
As things appear now, the Republicans are expected to become the majority party in the House and could also become the majority party in the Senate, although in recent days that has become more in doubt.
That is why it is troubling that twice this year Republican Senators have proposed taking away the guarantees of Social Security and Medicare to seniors.
Here is what that means.
Funding for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are what is known in Congress as “mandatory spending,” meaning the funding for those programs happens automatically every year. Those are the biggest programs with mandatory funding, but others like unemployment compensation, retirement programs for federal employees, student loans, and deposit insurance are also mandatory.
The other type of funding is called “discretionary.” Most of the other large federal government spending programs are in this category, such as defense, education, agriculture, etc. This means that the budgets and funding for those programs must be voted on every year. Although Congress has managed to finally pass budgets every year, it is also true that every year since 1998, Congress has failed to pass a budget on time, and it is often not until the next year that they finally manage to do so.
You may recall times in the recent past when the government shut down for a period because Congress cannot agree on the budgets.
Last spring Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) proposed that all mandatory spending programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid become discretionary so that every year Congress would have to debate and fight over how much money to spend on them.
Then very recently another Republican Senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said the same thing.
According to Johnson, “If you qualify for the entitlement, you just get it no matter what the cost,” Johnson said. “And our problem in this country is that more than 70 percent of our federal budget, of our federal spending, is all mandatory spending. It is on automatic pilot. It never — you just do not do proper oversight. You do not get in there and fix the programs going bankrupt. It is just on automatic pilot.”
We would hope that those multi-millionaire Senators do not mean that if Congress decides there is not enough money, they would not fully fund Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but under his proposal that is what could happen.
At the very least, under this scheme, if Congress could not approve a new budget until the following year, it is highly unlikely that seniors would get their COLA at the first of each year as they do now.
TSCL thinks this is a horrible idea and we would fight with every resource at our disposal to defeat it.