Do Republicans want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security?

(Tiếng Việt)

Claim: Some Republicans want to phase out Medicare and Social Security, two popular and expensive social programs run by the federal government to aid seniors.

Rating: This claim is MOSTLY TRUE. Despite claims to the contrary by many Republicans, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene famously yelling that Biden was a liar, Republicans have proposed policies that would weaken Medicare and Social Security.

During a State of the Union address, President Joe Biden claimed that “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security sunset,” prompting boos and heckling from many Republicans in the room. Famously, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green shouted, calling Biden a liar.

Medicare and Social Security are two of the top three most costly federal expenses, costing $733 billion and $1.2 trillion respectively, or roughly 12.5% and 21% of the annual budget. For reference, military spending accounts for 13% of the budget at $768 billion.

Considering the Republican party claims to want to cut government spending, these two extremely large and expensive programs may seem like ideal targets for spending cuts. But these programs are massively popular—a 2020 AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) poll showed that 96% of adults support Social Security, all across the political spectrum. Medicare is a bit more politically polarizing but nonetheless is viewed favorably by a majority, with 89% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans in favor according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Additionally, Americans who identify as Republican tend to be older on average, so it is a smart political move to not directly attack these programs.

Instead, the Republican party has proposed budgets that reduce overall federal spending, which cuts the budget for Social Security and Medicare. For example, a 2021 budget proposed by the Republican Study Committee aimed to cut federal spending by $14 trillion—including a $2.5 trillion cut to Medicare.

On the more extreme end, Republican Senators Ron Johnson (Wisconsin) and Rick Scott (Florida) have proposed that Social Security and Medicare, among other federal programs, should end periodically and be put on the chopping block (every year or every few years, depending on who you ask) so that Congress can debate whether that program should be continued. This is risky because if Congress cannot come to an agreement, the program in question could simply end by default.

One GOP representative, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, was much more forward, stating that ending Social Security was one of his explicit policy goals during his election campaign in 2010.

“It will be my objective to phase out Social Security, to pull it up by the roots and get rid of it,” Lee said at a campaign event. “There’s going to be growing pains associated with doing this. We can’t do it all at once.”

He has since softened his position on Social Security, but that hasn’t stopped him or his colleagues from proposing to freeze funding for the Social Security Administration at its 2022 levels, which would slow and weaken Social Security as a whole. Others want to raise the age for eligibility for these programs. “I don’t count that as a cut, myself,” said Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, despite the reality that raising the eligibility age would reduce access to these programs as well as how much is spent on them.

It would be highly contentious to attack programs as popular and as helpful as Social Security and Medicare, so Republicans typically do not directly attack them. However, their core policy position of cutting overall federal spending will often lead to cuts to these programs anyway. Some GOP representatives propose periodically ending these programs so that Congress can debate whether the program should continue. With the exception of Sen. Mike Lee, Republican lawmakers generally do not seek to completely eliminate Medicare and Social Security. However, these programs’ budgets are always up for debate and at risk of cuts by Republicans, so we rate this claim as MOSTLY TRUE.