Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are called "incentives" programs by some Republicans. These plans were put in place to help those disadvantage and many all ready pay federal taxes.

Social Security was meant to be a sort of "retirement" plan if you will. People pay into it and once reach a certain age, you receive what you put in (in theory) Billions have been taken out of Social Security and allocated for other spending (even though it was never meant to be touched).

Now the new tax plan purposed by the GOP Under Capitol Hill’s byzantine budget rules, the nonbinding budget resolution is supposed to lay out a long-term fiscal framework for the government.

This year’s measure calls for $473 billion in cuts from Medicare over 10 years and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid. All told, Senate Republicans would cut spending by more than $5 trillion over a decade, though they don’t attempt to spell out where the cuts would come from.

Even so, the measure doesn’t promise to balance the budget, projecting deficits that would never drop below $400 billion.

Why than do Republicans continue to cut these programs? Do they want all three of these programs eliminated completely?

  • 1
    Consider removing the line about social security "meant to be retirement". Social Security was always intended to be an old age insurance plan.
    – BobE
    Oct 25, 2017 at 2:51
  • @BobE: OP has it correct - ssa.gov/history/briefhistory3.html Oct 25, 2017 at 2:53
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    Recall that funds are deposited and benefits are paid by the " Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund. The notion that you will receive benefits that are somehow commensurate with what you have "put in" is wrong. Regardless, this has little to do with the question of "do they want all these programs eliminated completely? "
    – BobE
    Oct 25, 2017 at 3:09
  • FWIW, Medicaid was established with some Republican support although Democrats were the main force behind it, so the GOP wasn't always as widely opposed to it as it seems to be today. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_Security_Amendments_of_1965
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 25, 2017 at 6:41
  • Related: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/19464/…
    – Machavity
    Oct 25, 2017 at 14:13

4 Answers 4


Why than do Republicans continue to cut these programs?

For the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. That's where the money is.

From Politifact, percent of federal spending:

  • 25.3% Social Security
  • 28% Health (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.)
  • 16.2% Defense
  • 4% Veterans
  • 4% Food and Agriculture (including food stamps)
  • 4% Transportation
  • 3% Education
  • 2% International Affairs
  • 13% everything else (including welfare)

So between them Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other health spending make up 53% of the budget, and that percentage is growing.

Even though Social Security and Medicare have specific taxes to fund them, those taxes don't actually fully fund the programs. Both programs spent more than they received during the last recession. Absent another recession, they might fund themselves through 2021. The trust funds would be depleted entirely around 2034.

Medicaid does not have its own taxes, so it is always paid out of the general fund.

By contrast, Defense, Veterans, and International Affairs are only 22%, less than either Social Security or health alone. And Republicans tend to be of the opinion that Defense is underfunded.

The other alternative is to increase taxes, and the Republicans are against increasing taxes. Since spending is projected to grow, to keep the deficit constant, they have to "cut" spending. Of course, in reality, spending on Social Security and Medicare will continue to rise regardless. The "cuts" are really only slowing the rate of growth from its current projected amount.

Well, there is one other alternative. They could increase the retirement age. That both increases tax revenues from people working longer and decreases spending. And it does so without increasing the tax rate. That's essentially what the last bipartisan deficit commission recommended before Barack Obama rejected it.

Do they want all three of these programs eliminated completely?

Perhaps some do, but most want the programs to be self-funded out of the existing set-aside money. There is currently no one recommending an absolute drop in spending in either Social Security or Medicare. Both will increase every year under any plan actually proposed in Congress.

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    Social Security is the only one that actually funds its self. Until they started robbing it and allocating the funds elsewhere. Great answer! I wish you elaborated more on SS.
    – Noah
    Oct 25, 2017 at 3:49
  • @Noah - "The Medicare payroll tax is 2.9%. It applies only to earned income, which is wages you are paid by an employer, plus tips. You're responsible for 1.45% of the tax, and it's deducted automatically from your paycheck. Your employer pays the other 1.45%" (source)
    – user4012
    Oct 25, 2017 at 10:43
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    @Noah To my knowledge at least, social security has never /really/ been self-funding. It has explicitly required more people paying in than there are people taking out since it's inception. If people start living longer (which they are), or fewer people paying into the system it becomes insolvent(lower fertility rates, like every modern country). It's self-funding in the same way a Ponzi scheme is self funding. Oct 25, 2017 at 13:19
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    @Noah Social Security does not "fund itself". The trust fund was "invested" in the treasury, which means it was spent. Congress is now using general revenues to pay the shortfall. When Republicans threatened a government shutdown under Obama, the issue he touted to scare the populous was that SS checks would stop. If SS was really self-funded that would have been an empty threat.
    – Machavity
    Oct 25, 2017 at 14:21
  • 1
    I'd recommend clarifying that this is the breakdown of federal discretionary spending, as there is a significant chunk of non-discretionary spending that goes into the budget
    – Gramatik
    Oct 25, 2017 at 20:55

There's a fundamental philosophy among fiscal conservatives (who currently align mostly with the Republican party), going back to the early 20th century (if not earlier), that the Free Market is going to be superior to a government run-program in nearly any (some would get rid of the "nearly") situation. This isn't just a matter of simple practicality, but a matter of faith and morality. It was even initially argued that the Federal Government didn't have the authority to regulate most markets in the first place.* For instance, most of FDR's early New Deal programs were stuck down by conservative SCOTUS members.

So this has to really be looked at both from the Republican point of view, and from everyone else's.

From the Republican point of view, these large Federal programs can't work as well as true Free Market approaches would, and they are only popular because they amount to large-scale bribes to the poor with the rich's and the next generation's money.

From the non-Republican point of view, these arguments tend to look a lot like dogma-driven facts, rather than fact-based politics. From this point of view, the main problem Republicans have with these programs is that they work, and there's nothing that a dogmatic person hates more than the existence of something that completely disproves their dogma.

* - Usually this is either based on interference of the government in freely-entered private contracts, or on insufficient relation to interstate commerce.


In addition to the answers above, I should point out that they do not "continuously" go after cuts in those programs. Social Security and Medicare are very dangerous thing to go after politically. That's why the cuts you mention aren't specified. They want to keep any cuts they do make on the low-low and many times in the past, they've been unwilling to cut those programs at all, and they've focuses their cuts on discretionary spending.

The republicans have, in the past, been more comfortable when a democratic president has made those cuts. Bill Clinton agreed to some cuts when he reached a compromise with congress after their failed government shutdown. Obama made some (If I remember right) small cuts to medicare to help pay for Obamacare and the Republicans took advantage of that, appealing to AARP to vote republican and they had big wins in 2010 as a result. They might be talking about 470 billion in cuts over 10 year, but if a democrat cuts those same programs by just a few billion - they will shout about that from every rooftop.

In the long run, with the large number of baby boomer retirees and relatively low economic growth rates, and steadily increasing national debt, some cuts to the mandatory programs may be unavoidable. Republicans, if they had their wish, would cut taxes and cut entitlement programs (social security, medicare, medicaid). Democrats, if they had their wish would increase taxes on the top earners and try to maintain much more of those programs. Precisely what get done is part balancing act, part slight of hand, part blame the other party and part, tiptoe around the issues to not lose votes. It's a pretty ineffective system that encourages deficit spending.

I think it's much more accurate to say that Republicans WANT to cut those programs but they don't always TRY to due to fear of alienating the AARP voting block. They might be discussing cuts now, but lets wait and see what they pass first.

On your last sentence, I don't believe they want to eliminate those programs completely (Maybe Rand Paul does), but they do want to measurably reduce them over time.


I don't think that Republicans necessarily want to cut those programs. However, those programs are a mainstay of the Democrats (it's how they buy votes). So, the Republicans make threats to cut those programs so they can force the Democrats to concede other points in negotiation.

This is the same reason that the Democrats always go after gun rights.

  • Without comments, I can only assume that people vote down answers with which they disagree. It's not surprising since people are proud of threatening riots to prevent people from speaking things they disagree with.
    – ShadoCat
    Oct 26, 2017 at 17:16
  • 1
    I downvoted this question because it is an unsupported hypothesis, starting with "I don't think." Oct 27, 2017 at 13:11

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