Kevin Cramer was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2013. Since then, nearly every vote he has taken indicates his hostility towards Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Cramer’s score from the Alliance for Retired Americans in both 2016 & ’17 was a great big ZERO, and he has a lifetime score of nine percent, a strongly anti-senior voting record. In contrast, Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who Cramer is currently running against for U.S. Senate, has a ninety percent lifetime score. Yet when Senate Majority PAC aired an ad informing North Dakotans about Rep. Cramer’s attacks on their earned benefits, the KVLY television network stepped in to defend him.
The ad pointed out that Cramer voted for the $1.5 trillion Republican tax handout, which went largely to the wealthy and to giant corporations. The same week, he went on KVLY and said that “we have to get after entitlement reform because that’s the only way to get to the debt and deficit.” The same debt he just voted to increase by $1.5 trillion! And “entitlement reform” is of course code for cutting Social Security (despite the fact that it doesn’t contribute a single penny to the deficit), Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for this massive tax giveaway.
Rep. Cramer then went into more detail about what he had in mind, suggesting that we “do a little more means testing, maybe increase the age by a month or two for a while.” Both of these suggestions are simply euphemisms for cutting benefits.
Raising the retirement age is an across the board benefit cut, one that hurts low-income and minority families the most. Means testing benefits does not produce any significant savings unless middle class benefits are cut. This is because implementing the means test would add significant administrative costs to Social Security. Means testing would also weaken political support for Social Security by transforming it from a universal earned benefit into the type of program that politicians like Cramer routinely malign as “welfare,” and Cramer would soon begin calling for the program’s complete demise on that basis.
Yet instead of informing their viewers about what Cramer’s weasel words about “entitlement reform” really mean, KVLY chose to carry water for him. They aired a segment claiming that Senate Majority PAC’s statement that Cramer wants to cut Social Security and Medicare was false. Their evidence? Cramer never said the words “I want to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
That’s not surprising, since doing so would be political suicide. No matter how divided they are on other issues, voters across the political spectrum are united in their strong opposition to Social Security cuts. In a poll done during the 2016 presidential primary, 72 percent of Hillary Clinton supporters and 71 percent of Bernie Sanders supporters agreed that “Social Security benefits should not be reduced” — as did 73 percent of Donald Trump supporters and 66 percent of Ted Cruz supporters. The only people who support cuts are Wall Street billionaires and their bought and paid for politicians.
Given the unified opposition to cuts, Republican politicians always use weasel words like “entitlement reform”, “means testing”, and “privatization” to discuss their plans to cut and dismantle the American people’s earned benefits. That’s to be expected from politicians, but North Dakota’s 125,786 Social Security beneficiaries (not to mention every North Dakota worker who pays into Social Security and will be a future beneficiary) deserve better from their news media.
They deserve to know what “means testing” and “raising the retirement age” really mean. They deserve to know that this April, Rep. Cramer voted for a Balanced Budget Amendment which, if it had passed, would forbid Social Security from using its $2.9 trillion surplus to pay promised benefits. They deserve to know that back in 2012, Cramer stated that we should “introduce more private sector options” into Social Security and Medicare, code for destroying them by handing them over to Wall Street and insurance corporations.
Not only that, they deserve to know that Cramer’s opponent, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, is a staunch supporter of Social Security who voted against the tax giveaway. They deserve to know that they have a real choice.