Eight years ago, Republicans steamrolled their way to an overwhelming victory in the 2010 midterms. Powered by demonstrable falsehoods about a “government takeover of health care,” Obamacare “death panels,” and Americans being “taxed enough already,” the GOP gained 63 seats and a huge new majority in the House of Representatives.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the Republican tidal wave was a monstrous lie about a mythical Democratic threat to Medicare, the health care program now serving almost 60 million Americans. Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell darkly warned, were planning to pay for Obamacare by “sticking it to seniors with cuts to Medicare.” Then as for years since, future House Speaker Paul Ryan cautioned the elderly about President Obama’s supposed “$800 billion raid on Medicare.” Now, none of it was true. The Affordable Care Act realized hundreds of billions of dollars in savings from Medicare providers, not beneficiaries, savings every subsequent Republican budget (including those from President Trump and Speaker Ryan) have maintained. And even as voters headed to the polls in November 2010, Ryan and his House allies were pushing a voucher scheme to privatize and ration Medicare, the first of many such GOP plans the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned would dramatically shift health care costs on to seniors themselves.
Nevertheless, the Republican scam to scare seniors worked to perfection. On Election Day 2010, voters ages 55 to 64 and those 65 and over—the GOP’s two most reliable demographics—turned out in force while those under age 30 stayed home.
Eight years later, however, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and their GOP allies are singing a different tune. Having created trillion-dollar deficits for as far as the eye can see, McConnell this week pledged to take an axe to the programs at the center of the social safety net, especially for older Americans. Ignoring the $1.9 trillion, 10-year price tag for the GOP’s tax cut windfall for the wealthy, the Senate Minority leader declared that Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid” funding constitutes “the real driver of the debt.” As Bloomberg News reported this week:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday blamed rising federal deficits and debt on a bipartisan unwillingness to contain spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and said he sees little chance of a major deficit reduction deal while Republicans control Congress and the White House.
“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell said.
And as Steve Benen detailed, Mitch McConnell has plenty of company among the GOP’s best and brightest: