David Stockman, who was President Ronald Reagan's budget director, named the maneuver Republicans use to accomplish this "starve the beast," with "the beast" being the government. Emaciating the government is simple. Cut taxes paid by the rich, which, of course, reduces government revenues. Then claim the government just doesn't have enough money to pay for crucial benefits that tens of millions of vulnerable Americans need to survive.
Republicans see it as a win-win. It's a gift to their wealthy campaign donors and kick in the gut to government services.
It's exactly what Republicans were doing when they first cut taxes by $1.5 trillion in December then in February passed a $1.3 trillion spending plan that eliminated previous budget caps so that Congress could spend even more money that it doesn't have over the next two years -- in this case, an extra $300 billion.
The scheme is no secret either. GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan announced exactly what he was doing right around the time Republicans gave the rich and corporations all those tax cuts last year. On a radio talk show he said, "We're going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit."
Grandmas, heroin addicts seeking treatment and Tea Partiers with signs warning "Keep Your Goddamn Government Hands Off My Medicare" should be wary. Congressional Republicans are now going to wrap their government hands around Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and try to squeeze the life out of them.
Paul Ryan got exactly what he wanted and expected from the CBO this week -- horrible news, a devastating report that he can wield as a weapon to smash these programs.
Republicans knew tax cuts for the rich (including 15 wealthy Republicans on tax-writing committees who will each get a tax windfall averaging $314,000) would not "pay for themselves." They always intended to make the elderly, the poor and the ill pay for them.
He did his part to further enrich the already rich, bankrupt the American government, and push the nation's elderly and vulnerable closer to the brink.
Before he bows out, he's going to try to make matters worse. He wants the House to vote on an amendment to the Constitution requiring a balanced budget. If such an amendment were in place now, it would require Congress to find an extra $804 billion this year to eliminate the deficit Republicans deliberately created. The first place the GOP would go looking for that money is the Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security funds.
Unlike legislation, though, a proposed amendment to the Constitution must be passed by two-thirds of the House and Senate before it can move on to consideration by state legislatures. So Paul Ryan's new attempt to force Congress to kill social welfare programs will fail.
And it should.
When they run for office, Republicans should flat out tell their constituents, who have paid into the Social Security and Medicare funds all of their lives, that the GOP will do whatever it takes to incinerate the nation's social safety net.
Republicans know, however, that would mean voters would put an end to GOP lawmakers' government-paid gravy train. And while they are willing to take the food out of the mouths of the nation's elderly, they're not willing to relinquish their own free lunches.