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Did Republicans Deliberately Grow the Federal Deficit to Justify Attacking Benefit Programs?

During the 2018 fiscal year, the federal deficit ballooned to $779 billion — a major increase from the 2017 fiscal year deficit of $666 billion. Following a report from Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee, who pointed the finger at Republicans for this bad news, GOP leaders have rushed to deflect this blame.

Speaking to Bloomberg News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell explained that this deficit growth is the result of Democrats refusing to offer bipartisan cooperation on the Hill. “It’s not a Republican problem,” he asserted, accusing Democrats of an “unwillingness to address the real drivers of debt,” such as benefits programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

McConnell went on to blast the growing push by some Democrats to create Medicare for All, stating “I mean, my gosh, we can’t sustain the Medicare we have.”

Unfortunately for McConnell, these claims are simply not true. The source of this deficit spike is not at all difficult to ascertain — the most obvious being President Trump’s massive $164 billion tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Despite Trump’s promises, the policy has barely benefited the average worker.

But let’s not kid ourselves; this was no accident. In many ways, Republicans on the Hill truly deserve some credit for this bait-and-switch. The GOP has successfully put the country in further debt in order to give conservatives and their wealthiest supporters a nice bank account boost. And in the process, they managed to set up a scenario in which they could eventually blame Democrat-backed programs like the Affordable Care Act for the enlarged deficit. In reality, repealing the ACA would actually increase the federal deficit by more than $350 billion over 10 years.

Best of all, for the GOP, it can be used as a rallying point to justify taking a hacksaw to benefits programs, while sneering at notions of creating a single-payer health care system — reform that happens to be supported by the majority of Americans.

It’s a clever gambit, but will it be worthwhile in a few weeks? That’s not easy to say, especially given many conservative Americans’ apparent inclination to take Republican leadership at their word — despite their actions and the actual math showing otherwise.

Originally published at on Oct. 23, 2018.

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