Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that Congress has no choice but to slash entitlement programs in order to rein in the ever-expanding federal deficit, a move Republican leadership foreshadowed last year after successfully passing massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
> "It’s disappointing, but it’s not a Republican problem," McConnell said of the deficit, which grew 17 percent to $779 billion in fiscal year 2018. McConnell explained to Bloomberg that "it’s a bipartisan problem: Unwillingness to address the real drivers of the debt by doing anything to adjust those programs to the demographics of America in the future." The deficit has increased 77 percent since McConnell became majority leader in 2015.
While content to harp on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid as the driving forces behind the deficit, McConnell neglected to address the recent Treasury Department analysis showing that corporate tax cuts adversely impacted the deficit this year.
> Federal revenue rose by 0.04 percent in 2018, a nearly 100 percent decrease last year’s 1.5 percent. In fiscal year 2018, tax receipts on corporate income fell to $205 billion from $297 billion in 2017.
> Still, McConnell insisted that the change had nothing to do with a lack of revenue or increased spending and instead was due to entitlement and welfare programs. The debt, he said, was very “disturbing” and driven by “the three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.… There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs. Hopefully, at some point here, we’ll get serious about this.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Florida Senator Marco Rubio began discussing “entitlement reform” last year:
> "You have got to generate economic growth because growth generates revenue,” Rubio said at a Politico conference late last year. "But you also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries."
> “We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Speaker Ryan said on a conservative radio program around the same time.