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Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)
Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA, Sipa, via AP Images

Georgia senator's election pitch: I want to cut your Social Security

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Sen. David Perdue has cited popular benefits programs as 'the drivers that are causing this debt.'

Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) said Tuesday that U.S. spending on Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlement programs are "not under control" and could lead to "a runaway debt crisis."

In an interview with a local radio network, Perdue seemed to suggest that cutting funding to the popular entitlement programs — which provide health insurance and benefits to American seniors — would help reduce the national debt.

"This is the huge one," Perdue said in the interview. "This is what I hope to get at in my second term. That is, Social Security and Medicare — the things that you've already alluded to — are what's causing the huge run-up."

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Perdue added: "The thing that is not under control are mandatory expenses. This is Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pensions and benefits for federal employees, and the interest on the debt. And if we don't get at those things, we will have a runaway debt crisis."

American workers pay into entitlement programs over the course of their lives to help ensure they have health care coverage and financial security once they reach retirement.

In an emailed statement, a Perdue campaign spokesperson wrote: "Senator Perdue has not supported, does not support, and will never support cuts to Medicare and Social Security. He said absolutely nothing to suggest that in the interview in question. Any claim that he supports doing so is absolutely false. Senator Perdue strongly advocates for efforts to save Social Security and Medicare so they can fulfill their promise to future generations."

This is not the first time Perdue has hinted at cuts to entitlement programs for seniors. Last December, he called Social Security and Medicare "the 800-pound gorilla in the room" when addressing the national debt.

"Those are the drivers that are causing this debt," Perdue said in a Fox Business appearance.

Perdue voted for Donald Trump's 2017 tax law, which cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations, which in turn caused the annual budget deficit to balloon. The tax law also made the entitlement programs less solvent.

In 2015, Perdue called for restrictions to Social Security benefits through "means testing," as well as raising the retirement age.

"If I told the world today, I’m going to fix the debt and it would take 30 years to do it, you can’t imagine what confidence that would give to corporate executives investing money every day," Perdue said at the time.

Since Perdue took office in January 2015, the nation's debt has grown from about $18 trillion to more than $22.5 trillion — even before the COVID-19 pandemic. It now stands at an estimated $27 trillion — a roughly 50% increase on Perdue's watch.

Yet Perdue has rejected the most direct solution to the country's "runaway debt crisis": raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans. Without generating the revenue needed to fund entitlement programs, the only option Republicans leave themselves is to cut funding.

Perdue and other members of his party are in a bind: they don't want to alienate their biggest campaign donors by raising taxes on the wealthy, but they also don't want to alienate older voters by admitting they want to cut funding for entitlements. Perdue faces a tight reelection race against Democrat Jon Ossoff next month. One recent poll found Ossoff ahead, 49% to 48%.

The question is whether Georgia's seniors will continue to trust Perdue's promises.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.