So Republican plans to cut Medicare and Social Security would impose widespread hardship, with some of the worst impacts falling on red-state, noncollege whites — that is, the party’s most loyal base.
Why, then, does the party want to do this? We needn’t take claims that it’s about fiscal responsibility seriously; a fiscally responsible party wouldn’t be seeking to make the Trump tax cuts permanent or oppose giving the I.R.S. the resources it needs to crack down on tax cheats. What we’re seeing, instead, is that despite its populist rhetoric, the G.O.P. is still very much a party of and for the rich.
A more interesting question is why Republicans think they can get away with touching the traditional third rails of fiscal policy. Social Security remains as popular as ever; Republicans themselves campaigned against Obamacare by claiming, misleadingly, that it would cut Medicare. Why imagine that proposals to deny benefits to many Americans by raising the eligibility age won’t provoke a backlash?
At least part of the answer is surely the expectation that the right-wing disinformation machine can obscure what the G.O.P. is up to. The Republican Study Committee has released a 153-page report calling, among other things, for denying full Social Security benefits to Americans under 70; that didn’t stop Sean Hannity from declaring the other day that “not a single Republican has ever said they want to take away your Social Security.”
Finally, how do Republicans imagine they could pass any of this agenda? After all, even if they do win the midterms, they won’t have enough votes to override a Biden veto.
Unfortunately, we know the answer: If Republicans win one or both houses of Congress, they’ll try to achieve their goals not though the normal legislative process but through blackmail. They’ll threaten to provoke a global financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit. If Democrats defang that threat, Republicans will try to get what they want by making America ungovernable in other ways.
Will they succeed? Stay tuned.
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