Senator McConnell’s Mistaken Claims Regarding National Debt and Social Security

In a recent interview with Reuters, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blamed social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for the $779 billion federal budget deficit (the largest since 2012 and a 77 percent increase from $439 billion in 2015). “Entitlements are the long-term drivers of the debt,” he stated. “We can’t sustain the Medicare we have at the rate we’re going and that’s the height of irresponsibility.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded in a press release, “Under [this] agenda, we can afford tax cuts for billionaires, but not the benefits our seniors have earned.” In last week’s episode of Legal Eagles Radio hosted by Pond Lehocky’s Managing Partner Sam Pond, Sam shared similar sentiments along with his disdain for the word “entitlement” in regards to Social Security and the negative connotations it carries. “It’s not an entitlement,” Sam explains, “Stop having these folks, these politicians change the law and change our system to take away the benefit you paid for by having 6.2% of your paycheck taken for Social Security. You paid for it. And you earned interest on that money under that fund.” Partner Tom Giordano, Jr. adds, “We didn’t ask for that money to be taken out. It just was. The FICA tax–it pays for three things: Social Security retirement, Medicare, and Social Security disability.”

McConnell claims that America will not have enough prime-age workers to support its retired population due to demographic changes that Congress can’t control. However, there’s an overwhelming population of working-age foreigners who would embrace the opportunity to immigrate to the US and contribute funds, so that they could also benefit at retirement.

A common argument from the GOP regarding the deficit is that America cannot reduce its military spending. For example, when President Trump was asked in a recent AP interview about the trillion dollar deficit after he had railed on President Obama over deficits, Trump responded, “No. 1, I had to take care of our military. I had no choice but to do it, and I want to take care of our military. We had to do things that we had to do. And I’ve done them.”

In reality, popular support for current levels of military spending is much weaker than for the maintenance of benefits at their current levels, according to a U.S. News poll. Our nation’s military budget exceeds those of other countries, as shown in this graph by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. There has been no factual, mathematical support showing that military funds cannot be cut while aid to seniors can be.

When asked about Mitch McConnell’s consideration for entitlement reform, Trump replied: he hasn’t heard that. “I haven’t heard that,” he repeated, ” I’m leaving Social Security. I’m not touching Social Security.”

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