Rick Scott claims he won’t cut Social Security and Medicare. His record suggests otherwise.

By Giselle Balido

June 6, 2024

For nearly 5 million Floridians — almost 25% of the state’s population — these programs help pay for living necessities like food, the rising cost of rent, and routine medical expenses.

As he campaigns for a second term in the US Senate, Florida Republican Rick Scott is once again entertaining an overhaul to Social Security and Medicare.

Scott, who previously introduced a plan that threatened the future of the programs, told Bloomberg this week that lawmakers need to talk “about all the options to solve the program.”

The programs are projected to run out of money in 2033 and 2036, respectively, according to the Treasury Department. There are two possible ways to address the shortfall: boost funding for the programs or reduce benefits.

President Biden has proposed lifting the annual payroll tax cap on Social Security, which is currently limited to $168,600 in wages, to “make the wealthy pay their fair share” into the program. Currently, anyone earning $168,600 or more – even billionaires – pays the same amount in Social Security taxes on their wages. If that cap was eliminated or even significantly increased, the additional funds pouring into Social Security would help address the program’s shortfall.

Republicans have opposed such proposals. The other approach—which many Republicans have embraced—is raising the retirement age and/or reducing benefits.

While Scott has not made any specific remarks during his 2024 campaign, his record suggests he’d be likelier to so support raising the retirement age or cutting benefits than lifting the payroll tax cap, which could put millions of seniors’ economic security in jeopardy.

A safety net for older Americans

No matter a person’s party affiliation –Republican or Democrat– for most older Americans, or those heading into their senior years, the words Social Security and Medicare provide a sense of financial safety.

This is especially true when taking into account that before Social Security and Medicare, over 50% of American seniors had incomes below the poverty line, and their only option if they became disabled, lost a family breadwinner, or outlived their savings, was living in abject poverty.

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Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935, the Social Security Act created Social Security, a federal safety net for elderly, unemployed and disadvantaged Americans. Medicare, a federal health insurance program in the United States for people aged 65 or older and younger people with disabilities, was created by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965.

For nearly 5 million people in Florida — almost 25% of the state’s population — these programs are not supplemental income; they help pay living necessities like food, the rising cost of rent, and routine medical expenses.

A path to end benefits

Despite these obvious benefits for the most economically vulnerable segment of the population, in 2022, Scott proposed a plan to sunset all federal programs in five years, including Social Security and Medicare.

As innocuous as the name sounds, the “sunset provision” meant that funding for Social Security and Medicare would expire automatically. Simply put, under Scott’s original proposal, those programs would have ceased to exist in just five years, ending Social Security and Medicare for 4.8 million Floridians. The programs would then have required re-authorization, creating an opportunity for them to be cut or ended forever.

 

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After strong pushback from Democrats, as well as members of his own party, Scott later added an exemption for Medicare and Social Security to his plan.

But Mucarsel-Powell and other Democrats argue that if given the chance, Scott would still target the programs for cuts.

“Rick Scott is trying to raise taxes on our families, he wrote a plan to end Social Security and Medicare coverage,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement to the press last year. “Rick Scott is a fraud, and in Florida, we know it.”

In addition to running for Senate, Scott is seeking to be the Republican Party’s next leader in the Senate, meaning he’ll likely face more questions about how he plans to “overhaul” Social Security and Medicare—and if that overhaul would threaten the benefits of Florida seniors.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

CATEGORIES: MONEY AND JOBS
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