As Social Security Turns 87, Democrats Warn GOP Wants to ‘Put It on the Chopping Block’
Social Security

As Social Security Turns 87, Democrats Warn GOP Wants to ‘Put It on the Chopping Block’

© Hyungwon Kang / Reuters

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law on August 14, 1935, and Democratic leaders on Monday celebrated the 87th anniversary of that monumental event – while warning that Republicans want to tear new holes in the wildly popular and remarkably effective safety net program.

In a video, President Joe Biden celebrated the birthday sitting in front of a cake, while praising Social Security, which he said he wants to protect and expand, for allowing senior citizens to “retire with dignity.” He also patted himself and his team on the back for the American Rescue Plan and the strength of the U.S. economic recovery, which boosted employment much faster than expected, providing more payments into the Social Security trust funds and thereby providing a little more breathing room before those trust funds become insolvent.

At the same time, Biden warned that Republicans want to put Social Security “on the chopping block” by sunsetting the program every five years. Biden was referring to a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) to do just that — though without noting that Scott’s plan has been rejected by other members of the Republican leadership in the Senate, most notably Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Nevertheless, Biden played up the partisan differences. “Let me ask you, have you ever seen the Republicans on Capitol Hill do anything to protect or increase or to benefit Social Security?” he asked. “So here’s the deal, with Democrats in Congress, you get stronger Social Security because you paid for it and you deserve it. With Republicans in Congress, it’s probably going to get sliced.”

Pelosi joins in: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also celebrated the anniversary — and warned about the plans of the opposition party. “Today, tens of millions of Americans rely on their hard-earned Social Security checks to get by each month,” she said in a statement. “Many more are counting on those benefits as they work toward a well-deserved retirement. Rather than safeguarding and strengthening these essential benefits, extreme MAGA Republicans are seeking to destroy Social Security as we know it.”

In addition to the Scott proposal cited by Biden, Pelosi referred to a separate Republican plan that would fundamentally change how the Social Security system operates. “A majority of House Republicans are rallying around a budget that would hike the retirement age, slash benefits and push privatization – turning Social Security benefits over to Wall Street,” she said. “Some in the Senate want to go even further: putting Social Security funding on the chopping block every year and subjecting retirees to constant uncertainty.”

Pelosi was referring to recent comments by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who suggested that Social Security and Medicare should be reclassified as discretionary spending, which would have to be approved by Congress annually. “What we ought to be doing is we ought to turn everything into discretionary spending so it's all evaluated, so we can fix problems or fix programs that are broken, that are going to be going bankrupt,” Johnson said in a radio interview early this month. “Because again, as long as things are on automatic pilot, we just continue to pile up debt."

Republicans respond: Mark Bednar, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), told Fox News that it is “rich that President Biden is pointing the finger at others,” arguing that Biden has fueled inflation that will cost Social Security. “The result is the trust fund is draining even faster, without any real benefit to seniors, and forcing the program into bankruptcy sooner.”