Would you support a plan that “sunsets” Social Security and Medicare within five years? Because that’s exactly what Senator Rick Scott’s GOP agenda is proposing.
First, let’s clarify what Republicans mean when they say they want to “sunset” programs like Social Security and Medicare. A “sunset provision” means that funding for Social Security and Medicare would expire automatically — in the case of Scott’s plan, in just five years. In other words, if Scott gets his way, Social Security and Medicare would cease to exist.
So, what would that mean for you and your family? In Florida alone, nearly 5 million people — almost 25% of the population — rely heavily on Social Security and Medicare to cover the rising cost of rent and pay for routine medical expenses.
These programs are not just supplemental income for a handful of Floridians — they are the backbone of our state’s economy.
Seniors who have paid their fair share into these programs for decades shouldn’t have to deal with Scott’s threats to snatch their livelihoods out from under them as a political stunt ahead of the midterm elections.
But Scott isn’t the only Florida Republican who would like to get rid of Social Security and Medicare. His fellow senator, Marco Rubio, has a lengthy record of fighting to cut the benefits that Florida’s seniors count on.
In 2010, Rubio ran for Senate on a platform of massively cutting Social Security benefits by raising the retirement age and reducing cost-of-living increases. He falsely claimed that Social Security would “bankrupt” the nation, ignoring the fact that Social Security is an earned benefit that doesn’t add a single penny to the federal deficit.
When Rubio ran for president in 2016, he once again called for raising the retirement age to 70 — a position so extreme that even Donald Trump rejected it! Rubio also enthusiastically supported a plan to privatize Medicare, which would end the program as we know it.
In 2017, just before voting for a massive tax handout to the wealthy, Rubio referred to Social Security and Medicare as “the drivers of our debt” and called for “structural changes” to the programs. That’s Washington-speak for “massive benefit cuts for seniors.” Rubio believes we can afford to give endless tax cuts to his corporate donors, but we can’t afford our own earned benefits that keep over 22 million Americans out of poverty.
Why is Rubio so dead set on gutting Social Security and Medicare, even though that’s incredibly unpopular with voters across Florida? The answer lies in a 2011 speech he gave at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. In the speech, Rubio said that Social Security and Medicare “weakened us as a people” because “it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.”
Rubio wants to take us back to a time before Social Security and Medicare, when over 50% of American seniors had incomes below the poverty line. When it was every man and woman for themselves. When your only option if you became disabled, lost a family breadwinner, or outlived your savings was moving into the poor house.
Rubio is on the ballot this November. Everyone who cares about the future of Social Security and Medicare should pay close attention to his record — and vote accordingly.
Special to the Sun Sentinel, May 4, 2022
Manny Diaz is the chair of the Florida Democratic Party and former mayor of Miami.
Jon “Bowzer” Bauman is president of Social Security Works PAC.