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Would a President Ron DeSantis Slash Social Security and Medicare?

Ron DeSantis
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2021 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

Ron DeSantis once supported cuts to Social Security and Medicare: When running for office a decade ago, the Florida governor called for some privatization of Social Security and Medicare. This stance could come back to bite him in a presidential run. 

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The issues of Social Security and Medicare have taken on a great deal of salience in the last year or so.

In the 2022 midterms elections, Democrats campaigned by arguing that Republicans were threatening to cut or change those programs, and doing so appears to have helped them achieve a better election performance than expected. 

The War over Social Security Has Arrived

More recently, it’s become clear that the upcoming debt ceiling battles will entail Democrats accusing Republicans of wanting to cut those social programs, with a particularly viral moment in President Biden’s State of the Union address featuring the president demanding Republicans agree not to cut Social Security.

Biden has since emphasized that point in public appearances. 

“We had a spirited debate last night with my Republican friends,” Biden said in an appearance this week at a union training center in Wisconsin.

“Our Republican friends, they seemed shocked when I raised the plans of some of the members of their caucus to cut Social Security — and Marjorie Taylor Greene and others stood up and said, ‘Liar, liar.’”

Ron DeSantis Has a Problem

The issue seems likely to keep its relevance as the 2024 presidential campaign gets underway- and a report this week said that one of the likely candidates took some potentially controversial stances on Social Security in the past. 

CNN reported Thursday that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in an earlier part of his career, “expressed support for privatizing Medicare and Social Security.”

This was when DeSantis first ran for Congress in 2012, during the Tea Party era of Republican politics, when such stances were much closer to GOP orthodoxy than they are currently. 

In addition, when he was in Congress, DeSantis voted multiple times for non-binding budget resolutions that would have privatized Medicare and raised the Social Security retirement age to 70, CNN said.

These were votes for the “Path to Prosperity,” the alternative budget proposal introduced several times during the Obama Administration by then-Rep. Paul Ryan, when he was House Budget Committee chairman.  

The network’s KFile team found that DeSantis not only voted for those plans for some privatization of Medicare but said in an interview a decade ago that he supported doing “the same thing” for Social Security. 

“I would embrace proposals like Paul Ryan offered, and other people have offered, that are going to provide some market forces in there, more consumer choice, and make it so that it’s not just basically a system that’s just going to be bankrupt when you have new people coming into it,” DeSantis told the St. Augustine Record in 2012. “Social Security, I would do the same thing.” 

This may very well become an issue in a race between Ron DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, who, during his presidency, made no moves to change Social Security or Medicare. More recently, Trump has released a video stating that he would never cut either program. 

Paul Ryan, who served as House Speaker in the early years of Trump’s presidency and has since retired from politics, is a particularly disliked figure among Trump supporters. 

And should DeSantis win the Republican nomination, such past stances may very well be used against him in a general election campaign. Biden, in fact, visited Florida this week, which CNN interpreted as the president “taking the fight” to DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), whose plan during the campaign to sunset all legislation after five years was the source of much of the Democratic messaging about Social Security. 

This week, in fact, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Senate minority leader, ripped Scott’s plan, in a new interview. 

“The Republican plan — as I pointed out last fall — if we were to become the majority, there are no plans to raise taxes on half the American people or to sunset Medicare or Social Security,” McConnell told a Kentucky radio host, per Fox news.

“So, it’s clearly the Rick Scott plan, it is not the Republican plan, and that’s the view of the Speaker of the House as well.” 

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Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.