Bookman: Get ready for GOP calls to cut Medicare, other “socialism”

September 5, 2019 8:20 am

President Donald Trump’s name is the only one the state GOP has allowed to appear on the ballot next year. Zach Gibson – Pool/Getty Images

With two seats up for grabs next year, control of the U.S. Senate may be decided right here in Georgia. That condemns us to hearing the word “socialism” hurled at us repeatedly over the next 14 months in Republican campaign speeches and TV ads.

In a speech earlier this summer in Washington, U.S. Sen. David Perdue gave us a little taste of what’s to come:

“Democrats have had opportunity after opportunity to prove that the socialist way of life will work, and they have failed at every single turn,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

So let’s take that allegation on directly, shall we?

Before we can determine whether it is true or false, we need some sense of what Perdue and his fellow Republicans mean by “socialist” and “socialism.” And from history we know that in their minds, they’re referring mainly to entitlement programs.

Medicare is socialism. Medicaid is socialism. Social Security is socialism. The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, is socialism.

All of those programs were created and implemented by Democrats; all were condemned as socialism by Republicans.

At the creation of Medicare, for example, Republicans attacked it as socialism at its most dangerous, with Ronald Reagan predicting that if Medicare became law, government would soon dictate where we could live, what we did for a living and even what we were allowed to study in college.

“We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free,” Reagan predicted.

That didn’t turn out to be true. In practice, entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security have allowed Americans to enjoy their sunset years with at least some confidence that they won’t be thrown out into the streets to die because they can’t afford health care.

I think that’s success, not failure.

For almost a decade now, Georgia Republicans have also blocked expansion of Medicaid that would bring hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens – most of them working people, many of them in rural areas — under the umbrella of health insurance. That expansion would bring billions of federal dollars to Georgia, with Washington picking up 90 cents of each dollar in cost. As the experience of other states tells us, it would also provide a lifeline to medical institutions in rural areas that are otherwise disappearing before our very eyes.

So why haven’t state leaders jumped at that opportunity?

Again, because “socialism.” Because as always, ideology trumps pragmatism, it trumps compassion, it trumps economics.

It’s also critically important to remember that GOP antipathy to so-called “socialism” continues to animate its approach to politics to this day. In recent years, President Trump, Perdue and other Republicans have demanded and gotten significant hikes in defense spending, and also pushed through a massive tax cut largely benefiting corporations and billionaires.

Just as predicted, those policies have made the budget deficit explode to an estimated $1 trillion a year. And while Republicans claimed that the tax cut would produce annual economic growth of 4% to 5%, the Atlanta Federal Reserve predicts economic growth of a meager 1.5% this quarter.

Confronted by the consequences of their own policies, Perdue and his colleagues propose an easy solution: Cut Medicare spending. Cut Social Security spending. Cut Medicaid. That’s what they think of as socialism; that’s what they want this election to be about.  And if the debate over the next 14 months is honest, they’ll lose.


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Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.