PoliticsMidterm Elections


Does Sen. Heller Really Want To Cut Welfare To Pay For Tax Breaks?

Rep. Jacky Rosen claimed Sen. Dean Heller, who she's trying to unseat, wants to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax breaks. Is that true?
Posted at 10:03 AM, Aug 24, 2018

The Democrat running to unseat Republican Nevada Sen. Dean Heller has something to say about his record on welfare.

Jacky Rosen claimed at an event earlier this month that Heller "wants to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax cuts to his ultra-wealthy donors."

That stretches the truth, and it certainly needs some context. 

There are several parts to this, so stick with me. First, we should break down the accuracy of Rosen's claim that Heller wants to "cut" Social Security and Medicare. 

Heller has supported legislation that would slow the projected growth in spending on Medicare. There's some debate about whether or not that constitutes a "cut". That's largely up to the spin machine. 

Heller also backed a budget amendment that would pressure lawmakers to scale back Medicare and Social Security spending.

But Heller's campaign argues the senator has voted to protect Medicare spending and opposed changes to the program for current and near-retirees. That qualifier is critical: current and near-retirees.

Since those programs are so widely used and so popular among those who need them, any effort to reign in spending is going to focus on the long term: gradual changes over time for younger people who are decades from retirement. 

Now, let's revisit Rosen's statement. She also claimed a "cut" to Social Security and Medicare would pay for tax cuts to Heller's "ultra-wealthy donors". 

The Tax Policy Center estimates that 45 percent of benefits from last year's tax cuts will go to the top 5 percent of taxpayers in the first year. Then, it estimates 83 percent of benefits will go to the top 1 percent by 2027.

Another point — Heller has a track record that suggests he favors reigning in spending on welfare, but that doesn't necessarily mean he wants to cut it, and it's not a given that lost revenue from the tax cuts will be made up for by tightened spending on welfare.

So Rosen's claim takes facts and spins them. To understand the truth behind it, you need a lot of context.