GOP senator: It's time to have 'adult conversation' about cutting safety net programs

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Sen. Kevin Cramer wants to talk about cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as the nation battles a raging pandemic.

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on Wednesday called for an "adult conversation" about cuts to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to reduce the growing national debt. Moments earlier, he had endorsed the idea of borrowing money to pay for a major infrastructure bill as a stimulus to economic recovery during the coronavirus pandemic.

From a CNBC interview:

CO-HOST ANDREW ROSS SORKIN: Senator, I wanted to ask you about the word that you just mentioned, which is "debt." We're in the midst of a crisis, so stimulus is something clearly that is needed to get us back to work and get the system and economic machine working again. But at some point we're gonna have a conversation about debt — and I'm not arguing for austerity either — but the question I'd ask you is, from a policy perspective, longer term, how you think that's going to play out in the form of either higher taxes, in the form of less services. How do you think about it, senator?

 

SEN. KEVIN CRAMER: Well, there are a couple of things. First of all, we have got to deal with the mandatory side of the ledger or we're never going to get to balance. We know that two-thirds of our debt, at least, is driven by the mandatory side of our ledger, the entitlement programs and other things. We simply have more money going out than can come in to those programs.

 

You asked me what should be on the table. I think it should all be on the table. I may have my preferences. I may prefer one side or another, whether it's tax increases or, you know, cuts in services. I think changing some of the formulas is appropriate.

 

But what I don't think we can do is start a conversation — certainly not a bipartisan conversation — by saying what's not on table. We simply have to put it all out there. We have an opportunity with these low interest rates. The president talks a lot about even restructuring our own nation's debt. I think that's appropriate. I think [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin as well has talked about doing some of that.

 

But, in the long run, we have to have as much revenue coming in as going out, and that's going to take a tough conversation.

 

But the other thing is, Andrew, we have to have the discussion. So many in the political arena don't want to talk about it because they know when you start talking about the insolvency of Social Security or Medicare or the funding for Medicaid, it becomes very difficult at reelection time. So we just have to be willing to bite that bullet and have the adult conversation that a lot of us have been trying have for a long time.

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Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.