Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney recently urged overhauling entitlement programs to reduce spending.
People can be forgiven for thinking it’s 2012 all over again.
It seems echoes of fiscal conservatism are making a resurgence in some corners of the GOP.
People can be forgiven for thinking it’s 2012 all over again — a pre-Trump era when Republicans generally advocated to slash spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare to stabilize the national debt. The programs provide retirement and healthcare benefits to elderly Americans and form the linchpin of the social safety net.
But Republicans don’t push for safety net cuts with the same vigor they once did. They mostly abandoned those efforts due to President Donald Trump. He prevailed on the GOP to split from its desire to restrain federal spending by pledging to leave Social Security and Medicare alone. Still, that didn’t keep Trump from floating cuts during his 2020 reelection campaign or pushing ideas that jeopardized their funding.
Romney campaigned with Ryan as his vice-presidential pick at the time on proposals like raising the retirement age to ensure Social Security remains a fixture for future generations. Romney also famously triggered an onslaught of Democratic attacks over his comments arguing that 47% of Americans who didn’t pay income tax would only vote for Democrats since they were “dependent on government.”
It seems those echoes of fiscal conservatism is making a resurgence in some corners of the GOP.
“I think Republicans right now are coming back to the idea that Social Security and healthcare programs are totally unsustainable, and they need to work with Democrats to find a way to make these programs sustainable,” Brian Riedl, a budget expert at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, told Insider. “I don’t think they’re at a point where they have a checklist of specific policies of how to do it.”
But there are fresh signs that some Republicans want to restore the GOP’s model of fiscal restraint, particularly now that a Democratic president is in power.
“Congress should establish bipartisan, bicameral commissions to rescue our federal entitlement programs from impending collapse,” Romney wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. “Some combination of changes in revenue, benefits, cost management and financial arbitrage will be needed to restore their solvency.”
Ryan recently championed entitlement cuts as means of warding off economic disaster from too much debt.
“You have to win majorities, and you have to have a president willing to stick his or her neck out to get this done,” he said at an American Enterprise Institute book event. “I think that’s the key task of the conservative movement for the moment right now.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has proposed all Americans pay some amount of income tax to have “skin in the game.” It triggered comparisons to Romney’s 47% comments and unleashed an onslaught of attacks from Biden and other Democrats.
Scott has defended his plan. “We have a bunch of able-bodied people in America that have figured out how to live off government and that’s not right,” he said in a brief interview earlier this month. He’s said that he released the agenda as a rank-and-file GOP senator and not in his role as head of the party’s Senate campaign arm.
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