In an interview with Politico reporters Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman on Wednesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said we must cut taxes while reducing spending for Social Security and Medicare benefits in order to reduce the deficit.
“We have to do two things. We have to generate economic growth which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting structural changes to Social Security and Medicare for the future,” Rubio said.
However, Rubio leaves out a key detail: the so-called PAYGO law. Also known as the “pay-as-you-go” law, the PAYGO law requires Congress to offset any increase in the federal deficit with spending cuts, limiting Medicare cuts to 4% of its budget per year, so $25 billion of its $625-billion budget.
Max Richtman, the head of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said that such a cut in Medicare would “undermine the delivery of care to the 57 million seniors and disabled Americans who depend on the program.”
The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the Senate GOP tax plan, which would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years, would “create pressure for future cuts.”
When asked to justify the deficit increase caused by the proposed tax cuts, Rubio replied, “The argument would be, ‘We can’t cut taxes because that would drive up the deficit.’ That assumes that somehow we can fix the deficit through higher taxes, and we can’t.”
However, that argument misses the point and fails to see the big picture, perhaps intentionally.
The Los Angeles Times added:
If a tax cut can generate a deficit of $1.5 trillion, then plainly the federal deficit is sensitive to tax revenues. The root of today’s deficit is the sharp run-up in federal spending that began under George W. Bush, without a commensurate tax increase.
Rubio delivered his statements in full earnest-wonk mode, all but shaking his head in regret at the painful reality he claimed to be outlining. But his demeanor concealed that he was blowing smoke. His prescription involves two options — generating economic growth, and cutting spending. Actually, there are three options — raising taxes is the third. And both of the others are less cut-and-dried than Rubio suggests. For one thing, economic growth at the moment is near a recent historical high; most serious economists don’t expect the GOP’s tax cuts for the rich and for corporations to have any significant further impact.
For another, even if one is cutting spending, that leaves open the question: which spending? Rubio’s argument that it has to be through cuts to Social Security and Medicare is GOP doctrine, because it strikes at the middle and working class and leaves the wealthy alone, cradling their huge tax cuts.
“The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Rubio said. This is also incorrect. In fact, the driver of our deficit and debt would be the implementation of the proposed GOP tax cuts.
“We still have time to responsibly structure those programs,” he said of Social Security and Medicare, “in a way that doesn’t impact current retirees or people about to retire, but in a way that would probably impact it for me and people younger than me.” It’s important to note that Rubio is only 46 years old.
This could be done “in ways you wouldn’t really notice and wouldn’t really object to,” he said.
Anyone paying attention knows that while Rubio ensures no major changes to the benefits for those already depending on Social Security and Medicare, he cleverly leaves out future generations and the tens of millions of Americans already paying for their hard-earned and well-deserved benefits.