Slowly but surely, Republicans that supported the trillion dollar Trump tax bill are revealing their true motivations: slashing Medicare and Social Security.
During a Sunday interview with CNBC’s John Harwood, Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) urged entitlement reform as the deficit continues to balloon as a result of the GOP tax cuts.
“I do think we need to deal with some of our spending,” Stivers said. “We’ve got try to figure out how to spend less.”
Stivers, who also serves as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), is a self-proclaimed “budget hawk” and frequently criticized national debt levels under the Obama administration. Despite his previous trepidation at increasing the deficit, he voted in favor of a costly tax bill that even the White House admitted would not pay for itself over time.
In his interview with CNBC, Stivers admitted this as well saying, “I don’t think that tax cuts, themselves, can grow the economy for 20 or 30 years.”
But Republican politicians did not go into the tax bill vote blind. There were multiple studies released after the bill was drafted that showed massive tax cuts for the wealthy would only add to the deficit.
The conservative-leaning Tax Foundation released a report the week of the tax bill vote that found the GOP bill would lead to a 1.7 percent increase in gross domestic product over the long term and bring in an extra $600 billion in revenue. Even after factoring in that growth, however, the deficit would still total $448 billion over the next decade.
The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation specifically shot down the idea that the bill would pay for itself, stating in analysis on December 11 last year that it would increase federal interest costs by $51 billion over ten years and would cost approximately $1 trillion.
Stivers is far from the first Republican to hint at cutting crucial programs to help drive down the national debt, but he is the first to specifically link it to the financial failures of the tax bill.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI)
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said outright last year that Medicare and Medicaid were his next targets for 2018, following the passage of the tax bill.
“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during December appearance on Ross Kaminsky’s talk radio show. “…Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements — because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Immediately following the tax bill’s passage in December last year, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) how he could simultaneously vote for a huge tax cut for the rich while advocating cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
“We’ve got entitlement spending that is not sustainable,” Toomey replied. “These big spending programs that are growing faster than the economy. You can’t tax your way out of that problem. You’ve got to make some curbs.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told the Washington Post early last December that Congress could consider entitlement reforms as means to cut government spending and reduce the deficit stemming from the tax bill.
“If we’re going to do something about spending and debt, we have to get faster growth in the economy — which I hope tax reform will achieve. But we have also got to take on making our entitlement programs more sustainable,” Thune said. “I think there is support, generally, here for entitlement reform.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
Cole has admitted in the past he is not a “deep economic thinker,” yet believes Medicare and Social Security, rather than huge handouts for the wealthiest Americans, are what the country should be concerned about.
“If someone wants to get serious about debt, come talk to me about entitlements,” he explained. “Tax cuts produce growth, entitlement spending doesn’t.”
That Republicans have their eye on slashing government programs comes as no surprise, of course. Shortly after Congress passed the tax bill, op-ed columnist Bryce Covert of The New York Times warned of the “Trojan horse” hidden in the legislation that would serve as a setup for steep cuts.
“Republican leaders have wanted to do this for a long time. Mr. Ryan has been salivating over cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security for as long as he’s had a political career. Mr. Trump’s 2018 budget proposal, released well ahead of the tax legislation, named welfare reform’ one of its core pillars,” she wrote. “…Now that they’ve succeeded in passing a tax package that will reduce government revenues so much, the ensuing cost will serve as the excuse to get everything else they want.”