ICYMI: Ernst Would Rather Continue Her Efforts to Gut Social Security “Behind Closed Doors So We’re Not Being Scrutinized”

Vulnerable Senator Joni Ernst was recently caught on tape telling constituents in Iowa she’d like to keep her attempts to gut Social Security “behind closed doors so we’re not being scrutinized” (which is not something you say if you can defend the plan you’re pushing) — and widespread news coverage of her comments has followed.

Senator Ernst has not only “talked about privatizing Social Security” since at least 2014, she’s also introduced her own toxic proposal that “smashes open” the Social Security lockbox and “could take a sizable cut out of older Americans’ retirement payments” by asking workers to borrow against their own retirement in order to take paid family leave. The DSCC has consistently held Ernst accountable for her toxic record of threatening Social Security and siding with corporate special interests over hardworking Iowans.


Washington Post: Sen. Ernst says lawmakers should discuss fixing Social Security ‘behind closed doors’

  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said at a recent town hall that lawmakers should discuss fixing Social Security “behind closed doors,” prompting a wave of criticism from liberal and advocacy groups.
  • Senior citizens are a significant portion of the Iowa electorate. U.S. Census figures show that 14.9 percent of Iowa’s population was 65 or older in 2010. Only Florida (17.3 percent), West Virginia (16 percent), Maine (15.9 percent) and Pennsylvania (15.4 percent) had higher percentages.
  • Four Democrats have announced bids against Ernst in 2020. One of them, real estate executive Theresa Greenfield, raised the issue of Social Security at a campaign event Saturday, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, as well as in recent tweets.
  • “The only people squealing from Joni Ernst’s toxic record are Iowans who rely on Social Security,” Greenfield tweeted Wednesday, in a reference to a 2014 campaign ad by Ernst about castrating hogs. “We work hard for these earned benefits and deserve better than a senator who plays games with retirement security.”
  • [Ernst] has previously mentioned private [Social Security] accounts as one “option” among many that lawmakers should examine
  • The advocacy organization Social Security Works accused Ernst of seeking to “cut our earned benefits in secret.”

New York Magazine: Iowa Republican Senator Wants to Gut Social Security ‘Behind Closed Doors’

  • You’d think Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, would be particularly aware of the political risks of saying stupid things at obscure events.
  • Now, as Ernst approaches her own reelection challenge in 2020, a video has surfaced wherein she tells a town hall meeting that Democrats and Republicans need to get together “behind closed doors” to deal with Social Security, which is universal Republican code for cutting benefits to curb spending on this and other safety-net programs to make room for tax cuts and higher defense spending.
  • …anyone even vaguely familiar with Republican thinking on “entitlement reform” knows the drill: The GOP is terrified of intense public hostility to conservative schemes to “save” Social Security by reducing benefits (usually by privatizing them and then cutting them over time)
  • As Iowa Starting Line pointed out, Ernst has in the past expressed interest in privatizing Social Security (the “solution” George W. Bush proposed in 2005, which was soon abandoned by Republicans alarmed by the backlash). 
  • But even if you are gullible enough to believe that she is looking at Social Security with anything other than bad intent, the “behind closed doors” comment is a terrible look for her.

Los Angeles Times: Column: A Republican senator hints at gutting Social Security ‘behind closed doors’

  • Republicans in Congress have never been good at hiding their intentions to gut Social Security.
  • Now Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has added her voice to the discussion, with an added fillip. During a town hall appearance in her home state over the weekend, Ernst said members of Congress should hold discussions about Social Security “behind closed doors.”
  • To begin with, the only reason politicians ever take actions behind closed doors is that they know the results will be massively unpopular.
  • Ernst is on record as favoring the privatization of Social Security, which means turning over the most successful government program in history to Wall Street, so that bankers can extract their vigorish. The evidence comes from a Republican primary debate in Iowa in 2014, aired on the CBS station in Des Moines.
  • The best evidence that Ernst is talking about cutting benefits is that during her town hall, she rationalized holding “reform” discussions in secret because no one has the courage to talk about Social Security in public.
  • This is, actually, utterly untrue. Plenty of politicians are willing to talk about addressing Social Security. Two proposals on Social Security have been introduced in Congress, with the full pageantry of Washington news conferences and news releases… because they’re about expanding benefits and making the wealthy pay their fair share, not about cutting benefits and protecting the wealthy from the cost.
  • Republicans learned their lesson in 1936, and never forgot it: If you’re going to attack the retirement security of ordinary Americans, make sure you talk about it not out loud, but behind closed doors.

The Hill: Ernst calls for Congress to fix Social Security ‘behind closed doors’

  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said at a recent town hall that lawmakers should discuss changes to Social Security “behind closed doors,” sparking criticism from Democrats and advocacy groups. 
  • Ernst, who is running for reelection in 2020, received pushback for her remarks on social media, including from one of her four Democratic challengers.
  • “The only people squealing from Joni Ernst’s toxic record are Iowans who rely on Social Security,” Theresa Greenfield, a real estate executive who has launched a bid against Ernst, tweeted Wednesday. “We work hard for these earned benefits and deserve better than a senator who plays games with retirement security.”
  • “Hiding behind closed doors doesn’t help Iowans,” the state’s Democratic Party wrote on Twitter. 

Iowa Starting Line: Ernst: Need to “Sit Down Behind Closed Doors” for Social Security Fix

  • Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said at a recent town hall meeting in Emmet County that politicians should “sit down behind closed doors” as a way to avoid public scrutiny when discussing was to fix Social Security policy.
  • “So, it’s a broader discussion for another day,” she continued, “but I do think as various parties and members of Congress, we do need to sit down behind closed doors so we’re not being scrutinized by this group or the other…”

Daily Kos: Republican Joni Ernst wants to gut Social Security, but only behind closed doors

  • Sen. Joni Ernst is running for re-election in 2020. She is a Republican, but she will be doing her best to convince Iowa voters that she’s not one of those radical kinds of Republicans, the type that is dangerous to their future. And boy howdy, did she just mess that plan up royally. The not-extremist-at-all Ernst told a town hall meeting that she wants lawmakers to “fix” Social Security “behind closed doors.”
  • Republicans are always looking for the silver lining in the deficits they continually create with their corporate and fat-cat tax cuts, and that silver lining is always gutting Social Security. Always.
  • Shoring up the system meaning what it always does in Republican speak: taking retirees’ money out of the guaranteed Social Security system and putting it in the Wall Street casino.
  • Behind. Closed. Doors. So you don’t know what they’re doing.
  • Ernst is on the record since her first Senate campaign, when she considered “privatizing Social Security as an option. […] one solution” to a problem that does not exist.


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