CLEVELAND, Ohio — Social Security leapt to near the top of the list of Ohio’s most-searched political issues this week, according to data compiled by Google in a partnership with cleveland.com.
From Wednesday through Thursday morning, Social Security was the second most frequently searched political topic in Ohio. (As has been the case for weeks, health care was a strong number one.)
For the full week starting on Oct. 11, the federal retirement program, which previously has not rated highly on Ohio’s search list, tied with immigration as the state’s second-most searched issue. Interest in Social Security was highest in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, represented by Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan, and Ohio’s 16th District, represented by Republican Jim Renacci.
The spike in interest coincided with a news cycle that began on Monday, when the Trump administration announced a $779 billion federal budget deficit for the 2018 fiscal year. In a Tuesday interview with Bloomberg News, Republican Senate President Mitch McConnell blamed the deficit on unwillingness by Congress to take steps to reduce the costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“It’s very disturbing,” he said in the interview. “And it’s driven by the three biggest entitlement programs that are very popular: Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”
McConnell went on to say that both Republicans and Democrats are to blame for avoiding difficult decisions on those programs, and that unless Republicans and Democrats each controlled at least part of the federal government — and shared the political blame for any public backlash to any changes — it seemed unlikely that any reforms would be accomplished.
On Wednesday, Democrats pounced in response, saying the Republican tax-cut law, which will add a projected $1 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years, was actually to blame for the shortfall. This Wednesday tweet, from Ohio’s Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, is a representative example:
In case there was any question about how Washington Republicans planned to pay for their corporate tax cuts…
The bottom line: they’re trying to steal the money Ohioans have paid into Medicare and Social Security to fill the hole they’re blowing in the deficit. https://t.co/toyLD1ElLI
— Sherrod Brown (@SenSherrodBrown) October 17, 2018
For reference, here’s Google’s chart:
Brown has opposed any changes to Social Security, the full benefits for which currently are available to all Americans born between 1955 and 1959 at age 66, but will gradually rise to age 67 for those born after 1960. Renacci, who is challenging Brown for the Senate rather than running for re-election, has said he supports making the program means-tested — cutting off access for people at a certain income level — as a step toward making the program fiscally sustainable.
“The problem is career politicians like Sherrod Brown and others,” Renacci said during a Thursday interview on WTAM. “Look, it’s Republicans too. They’re more worried about the next election than the next generation. If we don’t do anything with Social Security, it’s going to be insolvent.”
Without changes, Social Security’s reserves will be depleted in 2034, meaning the program will not be able to cover its full benefits, according to the program’s administrative trustees.
Other top-searched issues for the week were abortion, the minimum wage, tariffs and guns. Medicare, Medicaid and mental health — all typically top issues — didn’t make the cut this week.