Social Security, Medicare, and taxes are among the most sensitive topics in American politics. Even a hint of trying to tweak, change, or augment any of the three can set off a firestorm.
Enter the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which had this to say in a May 2, 2022 Press release:
“Wisconsins are tired of Republican politicians pushing a disastrous agenda that could raise taxes on nearly one in three Wisconsin residents and cut Social Security and Medicare in five years. The Republican agenda would threaten the hard-earned benefits that Wisconsin seniors rely on and would hurt working families across the state.
It sounded a bit familiar.
We previously rated Mostly False a claim by Alex Lasry, a Democrat hoping to take on Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, who said Johnson “supports the Republican plan that phased out Social Security and Medicare.”
The election is still about five months away. Can the campaign already be in reruns?
Let’s look again: Are Republicans pushing a plan “that could raise taxes by nearly one in three Wisconsin residents and cut Social Security and Medicare in five years”?
The “Rescue America” plan rises again
When asked for reinforcements, Wisconsin Democratic Party staffers pointed — like Lasry — to the “Rescue America” plan, released in February 2022 by US Senator Rick Scott, R-Florida.
Scott is chairman of the Republican National Senate Committee. His 11 point plan addresses a range of issues, including education, crime and safety, immigration, public finance, and what she calls “fair and fraud-free elections” and “religious freedom/Big tech.”
Indicate number five in the plan – “Economy/Growth” – states: “No government assistance unless you are disabled or aggressively seeking work. If you can work, but refuse to work, you cannot live off the hard work and sweat of your fellow Americans. All Americans should pay income tax to get in on the game, even if it’s a small amount. Currently, more than half of Americans pay no income tax.
So that’s where the tax part of the Democrats’ claim comes from.
A May 13, 2022 CNN report says that – if passed – it would mean higher taxes for millions of people. According to estimates by the Tax Policy Center think tank, about 75 million US households in 2022, or 42% of the total, paid no federal income tax. Americans who do not pay federal taxes include the unemployed as well as employed people who do not earn enough money to file taxes; and some retirees, people with disabilities and stay-at-home parents.
A state-by-state analysis published on March 7, 2022 by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said he found that in Wisconsin, 32% of residents would see their taxes increased under the proposal.
In the meantime, as noted earlier, the point number six in the plan – “Government Reform and Debt” – states: “All federal laws expire in 5 years. If a law is worth obeying, Congress can pass it again.”
The proposal does not specifically say that Medicare and Social Security would be phased out, but refers to “federal legislation.” And both programs were created generations ago by federal legislation.
So that’s the Social Security and Medicare piece.
Taken together, the two areas show that there is at least some truth to the assertion.
The Republicans and the Plan
The biggest issue with the claim, however, isn’t whether the details can be extracted from the plan — it’s whether the document is, as noted, broadly endorsed by Republicans.
For his part, Scott — despite his position as head of the GOP campaign arm in the Senate — said, “It’s not the Republican plan. It’s more what I believe in.” He also has told the Washington Post that “everyone has a different approach. This is mine.”
In an email to PolitiFact Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Democratic Party said many GOP candidates across the country have refused to explicitly reject Scott’s plan.
But that’s different than endorsing it.
As we noted in our March 18, 2022 fact check on Lasry’s claim, there is dissent among Republicans. Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky opposes key parts of the plan.
“Let me tell you what wouldn’t be on our agenda,” McConnell said, according to The Associated Press. “We will not have on our agenda a bill that raises taxes for half the American people and cuts Social Security and Medicare within five years.”
Here’s a sampling of what some GOP senators have said about the plan.
mike brown from Indiana: “I’m glad Rick did it. Nothing’s gonna be perfect” but “we have to be for something.”
Florida’s Marco Rubio: “I haven’t seen the plan. I’ve read about it, but I think it’s good for people to come up with ideas. I’m not sure I agree with that. everyone. I don’t know all the details of the project.”
John Corny of Texas: “This is not an approach taken by the entire Republican conference. We will continue to focus on inflation, crime, the border and Afghanistan. And some of these other things are things to think about…after the election over.”
Tommy Tuberville of Alabama: Said he “agreed” with Scott’s plan and said Republicans need to think about “a universal plan that we have to sell to the American people.”
Finally, in a Press releaseJohnson praised Scott for presenting a plan, but refrained from endorsing it: “I think it’s important for elected officials to tell their constituents what they are for, and I support Senator Scott to do it.”
Johnson said elsewhere he doesn’t agree with everything in the planand his staff noted that in the past, Johnson had said that Social Security and Medicare should be preserved for future generations.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party said Republican politicians are pushing for a plan “that could raise taxes by nearly one in three Wisconsin residents and cut Social Security and Medicare in five years.”
There is an element of truth in the assertion, in that Scott’s plan contains these elements. But the claim goes awry by presenting it as a Republican-endorsed plan. Far from there. Scott said it represented his ideas, not a platform.
And McConnell has explicitly said that the two areas Democrats have hammered on will not be part of any GOP agenda.
For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, our rating is Generally False.