As President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) continue to do battle over a fiscal cliff deal, another Ohio legislator, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), soundly rejected the idea that Republicans are truly concerned with saving public programs like Social Security and Medicare. On Monday, Brown appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to blast the Republicans’ insistence on including severe cuts in entitlement programs to avert the impending fiscal cliff.
Brown stood firm when Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski pressed him on possibly raising the Medicare eligibility age, which Democrats are considering as part of the compromise. When Brzezinski claimed that Republicans are right to argue that Medicare and Social Security are unsustainable and could go bankrupt without reforms, Brown explained the broader anti-government ideology behind the cuts:
BRZEZINSKI: I feel like there’s a disconnect. First of all, you’ve got a lot of Republicans promulgating small businesses will be hurt. It’s not true. But I also feel like in return, there is this concept that Republicans are looking like the boogeyman who want to take away Medicare from everybody when they really want to make it solvent. When they really want to make it last into the future, when they really want to make this country’s fiscal irresponsibility come together and make sense.
BROWN: [...] When Newt Gingrich had a chance or President Bush had a chance, they wanted to shift costs onto beneficiaries by in part turning Social Security over to Wall Street. There has been a movement among conservative Republicans of a bit of a distaste for Social Security and Medicare. They’re public programs that are successful, and if it’s proven that these public programs are successful, it sort of undercuts their view that government can’t do anything right. Government has never been late on a social security check in 75 years since its first payment in 1940. We have seen two very successful public programs and there are always efforts to shift costs.
BRZEZINSKI: But they’re unsustainable.
BROWN: I don’t buy that they’re not sustainable any more than the defense budget is not sustainable. We owe billions of dollars down the line, of course. We can fix these things with changes at the margins without radical surgery.
Congressional Republicans have offered a budget deal that mirrors Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget in its draconian cuts to crucial social programs. Raising the Medicare eligibility age, which Brown rejected, is just another way to shift the burden to elderly Americans who risk losing their health insurance or seeing their out-of-pocket costs skyrocket.