Former longtime Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) proposal to require Congress to approve Social Security and Medicare funding annually instead of automatically is “suicidal politics.”
Johnson, who is up for reelection this year, said on “The Regular Joe Show” podcast on Wednesday that mandatory spending for Social Security and Medicare should be switched to discretionary spending so “it’s all evaluated.”
Johnson argued that the majority of the federal budget is mandatory spending so “it’s on automatic pilot” and proper oversight does not happen. He said if this carries on, the country will continue to assume debt.
During an appearance on CNN’s “New Day” Thursday, Wallace said that Johnson’s idea would put cutting Social Security and Medicare “up for grabs,” calling it “terrible policy” and warning of potential political consequences.
He said Social Security is considered the “third rail” of American politics —referring to the third rail of the New York City subway that can electrocute people.
He said a “fundamental misunderstanding” is that Social Security is “free money,” but people pay into Social Security and Medicare. He compared it to an insurance policy in which people pay premiums for coverage.
“No one would say you’re not entitled to the benefit for life insurance when the person who has the policy dies,” Wallace said.
American retirees receive Social Security benefits in monthly payments after their retirement, and Medicare is health insurance available to Americans aged 65 and older and those who are disabled. Workers fund these programs through taxes, and Social Security benefits are partly linked to someone’s monthly earnings.
Wallace said there are issues with Social Security, partly as a result of people living longer lives than when the system began in the 1930s. But he said portraying it as an “entitlement” is incorrect.
A spokesperson for Johnson told The Hill after the senator’s comments that he did not suggest putting the programs “on the chopping block,” but fiscal discipline is needed to ensure senior citizens do not need to question if they can rely on the programs to endure.
Wallace said Johnson’s proposal puts him “further out on the extreme” as he runs for reelection.
Democrats see Johnson’s seat as a possible pickup opportunity in the upcoming midterm elections. The race is expected to receive a lot of national attention and funding as November approaches.