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Medicare, Medicaid, 'Welfare' on GOP Chopping Block

Now that they've very nearly finalized their big business tax grab and tossed billions in tax cuts to the wealthy, GOP leaders now plan to slash Medicare, Medicaid and numerous social programs that they call "welfare."

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WS) said as much on a home-state radio show, adding that Social Security wouldn't be touched -- but only because some technical Senate rules would get in the way.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. Trump's proposed 2018 federal budget made it clear this would happen and it was obvious then that the initiative would be deemed necessary once the tax reform legislation, which is estimated to add upwards of $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over the next decade. began to move in Congress.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said. The most important examples of federal entitlement programs include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, most Veterans' Administration programs, federal employee and military retirement plans, unemployment compensation, food stamps, and agricultural price support programs.

Ryan, who was chairman of the House Budget Committee before being elected Speaker, has had entitlements in his gunsights for many years. Last year he proposed a detailed plan that would privatize Medicare, ending the program as we know it. Now, he clearly has an ally in the current president, even though Trump promised during the campaign not to "touch" Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Obviously, he was believed by millions of supporters who voted for him -- people who rely on those very programs to survive.

Ryan said during the interview that he's talking with Trump about what types of entitlement changes would work. Trump is pushing to overhaul income-based programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is the old food stamp program and is relied upon by millions of low income individuals to feed their families, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. His 2018 budget proposed $272 billion in 10-year cuts to such programs, largely through changes to SNAP.

Regarding Medicare, Ryan said on the radio show that he thinks Trump may be coming around to supporting Medicare cuts. “I think the president is understanding that choice and competition works everywhere in health care, especially in Medicare,” he said.

Nevertheless, Trump puts a great deal of stock in the polls, and they show that the Republicans' attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act, and the GOP tax plan are the two least-popular major bills on record. But cutting Medicare would make them pale comparatively in their degree of unpopularity.

A Pew Survey earlier this year found that 94 percent of the Democrats and 85 percent of the Republicans oppose cutting Medicare. Nevertheless, Trump has proven to be totally unpredictable and is proud of that fact. So anyone who is concerned about keeping Medicare, Medicaid and the other social programs intact had better pay attention to developments and let their public officials know where they stand.

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