All the way back in December, an anonymous Republican member of Congress came forward to Business Insider to tell them that Donald Trump was ready to “go after” Social Security on the first day of his second term (god forbid there is one). Of course, nobody was taking the idea of a Trump second term very seriously, so the details remained ethereal at best.
Now we know those details, and it centers on the use of “framing the debate” to cast Social Security — and Medicare, as they go hand in hand — as one and the same as forms of “welfare” that conservatives are traditionally opposed to.
The continued use of the phrase “entitlement reform” is exactly the same as when Ronald Reagan invented the myth of — and coined the term — “welfare queen.” That was an imaginary character that Republicans used as a boogeyman to paint helping the poor as a sucker’s game, something to simply be exploited by legendary Cadillac-driving, caviar-eating urban mothers of entire broods of children, popping another one out every time she wanted her welfare check increased.
That’s a “frame” that persists to this day because it’s very effective: It conjures up, in the minds of conservative Americans, an image of someone getting something they don’t deserve, which is an idea that Tea Partiers and right-wingers simply cannot abide. They can’t stand the notion of one single person of color getting something that — in the judgmental conservative’s mind — they didn’t work hard for. It’s a framing system rooted in racism and isolationism.
The problem is, Social Security and Medicare aren’t welfare in the first place. They’re called “entitlements” because they are things that are already PAID for — things that recipients are entitled to.
And it’s not like Trump doesn’t know that it’s a toxic idea to try and cut these programs in his “first” term if he wants to have even a prayer of ever getting re-elected. He campaigned on being the first one to pledge to NEVER cut them, so he knows if he’s going to break that promise, he’ll have to wait until his job is no longer in jeopardy.
But most importantly, the plan to get rid of these crucial programs has to start with a giant, money-sucking cost that must be offset by demolishing programs that Republicans think they can steal from. And unfortunately, that’s already happened: The tax reform bill passed by the GOP before the end of the year.
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