If you support fiscal responsibility, you might be a ‘MAGA Republican’

Last week, President Biden gave a speech outside Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, where he said “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” Americans were assured that “This was not a speech targeting all Republicans:” “I want to be very clear,” the president said, “Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans.”

One would certainly not want to be an extremist who “threatens the very foundations of our republic,” so how do you know if you’re a ‘MAGA Republican’? Fortunately, President Biden has offered some detail on what it is that ‘MAGA Republicans’ believe:

The GOP has said little recently about entitlement reform which is a shame. Social Security, for example, is an absolute dog of a policy which is on a fast track to insolvency. As I wrote in 2019:

Social Security is estimated to run out of reserves in 2034, after which benefits would have to be reduced by about 25 percent to keep spending within available annual revenue. Over 75 years, Social Security has an unfunded liability of $13.9 trillion.

The Medicare hospital insurance trust fund will run out of reserves in 2026. Medicare’s second trust fund, for physician and outpatient services and for prescription drugs, is permanently “solvent” because it has an unlimited call on the general fund of the Treasury—the incomes of future taxpayers. Premiums paid by the beneficiaries will cover only about 25 percent of program costs; the rest of the spending is unfinanced. Medicare’s overall unfunded liability over 75 years is more than $37 trillion.

This is only going to get worse. According to Census Bureau projections, by 2030 each 100 working-age Americans will be supporting 35 retirees, and this could rise to 42 by 2060. Another way to think of this is to calculate the number of retirees each worker must support. In 1946, the burden of one retiree was shared between 42 workers. Today, according to the SSA, roughly three workers cover each retiree’s Social Security and Medicare benefits. By 2030, however, there will be only two workers supporting each retiree.

In other words, a working couple will have to support not only themselves and their family but also someone outside the family thanks to Social Security and Medicare.

To make Social Security solvent again, the payroll tax rate would need to be hiked immediately from 12.4 percent to 15.2 percent, or Social Security benefits would need to be cut on a permanent basis by about 17 percent. According to economists Roger LeRoy Miller, Daniel K. Benjamin, and Douglass C. North:

“[F]or Social Security and Medicare to stay as they are, the payroll tax rate may have to rise to 25 percent of wages over the next decade. And a payroll tax rate of 40 percent is not unlikely by the middle of the twenty-first century.”

Wanting to reform this program and avoid this situation ought to be an imperative for any responsible government, But, to President Biden, it makes you a ‘MAGA Republican’ like those whose “extremism…threatens the very foundations of our republic.” To paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, if you believe in fiscal responsibility, you might be a MAGA Republican.

When it comes to raising taxes on working families, nobody has any clue what the President is talking about. But, considering that his recent Inflation Reduction Act, which won’t reduce inflation, will increase taxes, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, for every income bracket, with more than half of the tax increases on people making less than $400,000 annually, the question has to be asked: Why is President Biden pushing a ‘MAGA Republican’ agenda?

The strategy here is obvious. You start by saying that some group or other are beyond the pale. You offer genuine lunatics as examples of this group. Then, you expand that definition to include everybody who disagrees with you. Now, everyone who opposes you is beyond the pale. It didn’t take long for the criteria for being a ‘MAGA Republican’ to expand from “election denialism…outlandish-to-the-point-of-being-embarrassing conspiracy theories… [and] weird weekend MAGA warriors training as if their militia might take on the U.S. military” and include entitlement reform. Just eight days, in fact.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated this strategy explicitly last week:

Such moves — to delegitimize any opposition — are deeply troubling whoever is responsible for them and should concern all Americans.