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The First Sneak Attack on Medicare, Social Security Has Already Happened

And we didn't even know it.

Social Security Medicare Cards

Remember, back on the morning of 3 January when the new 115th Congress convened, Republicans had already voted in secret the night before to shut down the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)?

And how, when word got out, so many thousands of furious citizens phoned Congress that the House was forced to rescind that clause? Before noon?

It was a jubilant win for the good guys that day but there is more in the new rules package that got lost in the hubbub and celebration:

”Unnoticed by most was an additional provision, which is one part of the Republican game plan to destroy Social Security and Medicare,” writes Nancy Altman at Huffington Post last Saturday...”

This is slightly complicated (as the Republicans intend) but not something we can't understand if we pay attention – and it is crucial that we do.

Start with this from Altman:

Social Security...and Medicare...do not go through the appropriations process because, as monthly pension payments and medical insurance, they must pay what is owed, not what Congress chooses to spend.

“If Social Security and Medicare were subject to the whims of every Congress, they would be radically transformed. No one could count on the benefits they had earned.

For this reason, Social Security and Medicare are unique among most federal agencies and departments whose work can be hobbled and even destroyed with funding cuts during the appropriations process by representatives who don't like those departments.

As Altman explains, Republicans have an almost religious belief that the private sector can do anything better than government can and because Social Security and Medicare bypass the appropriations process, the GOP has hated those two programs from the moment they were each enacted.

So here is what the House Republicans wrote into the new rules package that will be in force for the next two years. Altman again:

“...the new rules require the relevant committees to make 'recommendations for changes to existing law for moving [unspecified] programs...from mandatory funding to discretionary appropriations, where appropriate.'

“Note the vague language,” writes Altman. “Republican politicians understand how popular Social Security and Medicare are.

Yet they desperately want to destroy the programs, which put the lie to their anti-government agenda by illustrating clearly that there are some tasks that the government does much better than the private sector.”

Now, here is the stealth part that the Republicans hope will slip by and/or mystify other politicians, the press and citizens (emphasis mine):

”The solution? Cut and radically transform Social Security and Medicare, but do it in a manner that avoids political accountability.

“Using changes in the arcane [new] rules of the budget to force through subsequent cuts fits that bill perfectly.

“By the time the American people realize what's happening, the rules that usher in the changes are in the past [voted in on 3 January 2017], and those voting for the cuts can claim that they have no choice, for budgetary reasons.”

Representative Tom Price, current chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed other changes to the budget rules which if enacted, says Altman, “would end Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as we know them.”

Price is the president-elect's nominee to become Secretary of Health and Human Services where he will have direct control of Medicare and Medicaid and will be a trustee of Social Security.

Nancy Altman understands more about Social Security and Medicare and the politics thereof than just about anyone on the planet. She is founding co-director of Social Security Works and and a regular contributor on these issues at Huffington Post.

Along with Josh Marshall and his reporters at Talking Points Memo, she is the foremost defender and topnotch explainer of the sometimes cryptic issues around these programs.

Please read Altman's entire story on the stealth attack at Huffington Post. We need all the education we can get to be articulate enough to effectively resist the upcoming Republican attempts to dismantle these programs.

In some ways, the Republicans in Congress are more dangerous to the American way of life that the president-elect and you can expect additional stealth attacks in almost any area Congress controls. We're all going to be busy for the foreseeable future.


Thank you so much for bringing attention to this extremely important matter. I will be sharing this far and wide in the coming week and encourage others to do the same. Regardless of what one's opinion is of politics, this "sneak attack" has enormous implications.

OMG! This is realllllly scary. Thank you for posting this. I'm sending it to as many as I can. Dee

Depressing news.

They cannot be allowed to gut Social Security and Medicare. Too many of us would suffer too great a consequence.

This is how they have been working their magic for the last twenty years. We democrats are not very bright.

They now have found their "in" for destroying Social Security and Medicare "drop by drop" and we are doomed. The ethic's ruling was probably their screen for passing that all important hidden nugget. They are way too clever for us.

If they are put down and you think you have won--- they regroup and come back with a another little trick.

Without Social Security, I'd be on the street. Without Medicare, I'd already be dead. Don't Republicans have parents and grandparents like everyone else?

So do we start calling and writing to our reps, congressmen, senators NOW??? I think yes.

Not now because there is no vote upcoming and no one, even in Congress, knows what they will do about these programs yet. If we jump every day with phone calls they will lose effectiveness. If we coordinate with groups that are organizing phone calls on a certain day or week, Congress will be flooded and our efforts will be more effective.

This was an educational and "be alert" post, not an action post.

Since when did being a heartless creep become a prerequisite for Republican lawmakers?
I can't believe that their positions are so tenuous that they are afraid to go against their party's line and do the right thing.
Surely there has to be someone on that side of the aisle that can see the problem with this. Or am I so politically naïve that I still believe that politicians work for the people that elect them?

I'm even more scared now. Making it worse I think about every member of my church is Republican including pastor. How can I look them in the face?

Yes -- GOPers in Congress are in many ways more dangerous than Trump. He doesn't really care about domestic matters (except screwing people of color who are not his "real Americans"). Congressional Republicans have NO objectives other than cutting taxes for their sponsors among the 1%. Trump's antics in many ways serve as cover for that objective. He'll benefit personally -- as will the deplorable CEOs he has surrounded himself with.

Thanks for keeping us informed about SS and medicare. We have got to be completely vigilent on these issues. I agree with Jan's comment about the GOP--they are willing to slide stuff in while all the attention is on DT tweets. I stay well informed and this particular rule was not something I'd read about before.

Thanks for keeping us informed. I've sent this to my friends.

I am following an idea from the Indivisible Guide and inviting friends over to discuss specifically the attack on Social Security & Medicare, this Sunday afternoon. So far three folks have indicated they are attending. I think if we all start working on this together we have a better opportunity to have an organized opposition and at least some impact on the actions of congress. Thank you for posting and keeping us informed, it is a bit overwhelming with the amount of things the Republicans are pushing through. The second thing I am doing is sending cards to legislators, as well as calling. It may not be much, it is something I can do from home.

Yes, Republicans in Congress are more dangerous than Trump, since in many ways he he incredibly distractible and stupid. But he was their ticket to power—they couldn't have done it without him. In a dream world where he might be impeached, we will still be stuck with Pence, who has a firm grasp of the Republican agenda.

Yes, VERY scary! Ideologue Repugs have the potential to be extremely dangerous, starting with V-P Pence. He has a self-righteous smirk on his face most of the time that I find annoying but also alarming. Ayn Rand-acolyte Paul Ryan supports almost everything I strongly oppose.

I haven't attended church in decades, but if I were Bonnie, whose fellow worshippers apparently are all or mostly tRrumpians, I think I'd be contemplating a change. Yes I know we're supposed to talk to and exchange views with them, but I'm not ready for that yet.

I don't think I could go face-to-face every Sunday (or even most Sundays) with a roomful of Repugs who voted for The Orange Apparition. I just wonder how these so-called "Christians" (even the Pastor is a tRumpian?!) seem to think it's perfectly O.K. to cut off OTHER people's healthcare and possibly their primary source of income. That's what they want to do to Social Security and Medicare. Amazing--and appalling!

Two points:
The Guardian is running a series of articles on the people of Bethlehem, PA and how and why the residents of the area who voted solidly for Obama in 2008 and '12 switched to Trump in'16.
I agree with Ronnie about not running to the phone every time we think the Republicans are threatening to do something else stupid or crooked but I'm concerned that we might be seeing the startup of two many liberal splinter groups asking for signatures and donations. We need to support a strong, unified liberal resistance movement

The keyword here is "UNIFIED". Let's not the strength of the resistance movement be weakened by two many splinter groups

The only thing we can count on from the Republicans is that they will act impetuously and petulantly, just as they did in leaping to overturn the ACA without a plan for a replacement. Since the original ACA took many months of negotiation and compromise, they are not likely to replace it overnight. Moreover, their stupidity and naivety will trip them up and they will be shocked, shocked when they learn that their constituency doesn't have the faintest understanding that "ObamaCare" and the Affordable Care Act are the same thing.

The Republicans will be stunned into inaction when their people turn on them as they did with their "keep your government hands off my Medicare" signs the last time the lawmakers tried this. I am not belittling in any way the risks to Social Security and Medicare from these neanderthals. They are just dumb enough to act precipitately without thinking about the consequences. And of course their Dear Leader has no idea what is going on. But I don't think they will get away with it for long. To protect their sorry political asses, they will have to correct course, just as they had to backtrack quickly on the ethics law.

This is exactly how Obamacare was passed. Remember, we've got to pass it before we can tell you what's in it!!!!!

Actually, Dee, this is quite different. This new provision in the rules package (which is decided upon by a small number of the majority party in the House and not subject to a vote of the full Congress). It allows changing a program that has always required mandatory funding as explained above to discretionary funding so that Congress can raise or lower how much money they want, for example, to give Social Security and Medicare.

It is not a bill to pass or not as the ACA was; it is an fundamental change in the budgetary and appropriations process.

As Becky mentioned above the Indivisible Guide has excellent advice and steps to take in resisting and opposing the new Congress and President. Way to go Becky in meeting with your friends! Even just you and two or three others is a great start.

Today's LA Times has an Op-Ed written by three contributors to Indivisible. The title is "How to stop Trump: Lessons from the tea party." They talk about how and why the tea party was effective in getting us to the current mess. They started just as Becky has.

Their recommendations include: 1) organize locally focusing on members of Congress in their home states and pushing with every available tool; and 2) we need to play defense. Rather than putting forward plans to stimulate the economy or to improve the healthcare system, they chose to “just say no.” The tea party kept its movement strong, broad and unified by concentrating relentlessly on opposition. As Ronni stated, we saw this approach work January 3.

I urge everyone to do a search for this Op-Ed. I think the LA Times allows you to access a few articles per month without a subscription. By all means go to the Indivisible Guide website.

even though the Republican party has their own agenda, I don't think they will have as easy a time controlling Trump as they think. However, Trump's lack of knowledge and limited attention span will allow them to sneak many changes they want to make, past him. He has no idea how government works and n o desire to learn, in any meaningful way. He is, at heart, a conman who thinks he can snap his fingers and make changes. He is dangerous, but all those Republicans, who have been waiting to strip benefits from the elderly will do what they want, without his attention is diverted to what he knows best, trying to be popular and make money. I am sending for a copy of indivisible, and will continue to stay informed and work towards protecting ourselves and our citizens.

Thank you for this information and the link, Ronni. Several of us in my 2000+ population rabidly republican old folks home have been trying to get an email/phone network going but find democrats, at our age any way, reluctant to "get involved" - too busy some of them a little younger than my 78 years, other say que sera sera. I hope I can draw in a few with this article.


I've been calling my Congressman for about a month now, letting them know I care about SS and Medicare. Unfortuantly one of them is Ted Cruz and his lacky told me I was wrong. At least McCaul acknowledge he has gotten a lot of calls about it and says it's an important issue. Let's see what he does about it.

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