During President Donald Trump’s campaign, he made many promises, including to make America great again, bring manufacturing jobs back to our country, and to “leave Social Security as is”.
When most Republicans were either ignoring Social Security and Medicare or planning to cut benefits, Trump promised to leave the retirement age and Social Security benefits intact.
While he didn’t provide specifics on how he would save the program other than vowing to crackdown on fraud and waste, he did claim that by bringing jobs back to America, reducing taxes, and investing in infrastructure, the income of American workers would increase, thus increasing payroll taxes needed to fund Social Security.
Unfortunately, Trump’s promise is already being tested.
Republicans are proposing to raise the full retirement age from 67 to 69, which would indirectly cut benefits for younger workers affected by this proposal. People would still be allowed to collect benefits at age 62, but because the full retirement age would be higher, the “penalty” for taking benefits early would also be higher. The question is will Trump veto this bill if it makes it to the Oval Office or will he cave in to his party’s pressure to cut Social Security benefits?
In addition, several of Trump’s cabinet nominees are not in line with his promise to keep Social Security as is. For example…
Trump’s Social Security advisor is Tom Leppert, former Dallas mayor, who previously suggested a plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare. Source: money.cnn.com
The appointee for director of the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), Mick Mulvaney, has the task of keeping Trump on budget. Mulvaney is know for trimming the fat, and even stated in his Senate testimony on Tuesday that he would cut Social Security and Medicare spending. He is in favor of at least a partial privatization of Social Security.
During his confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Mulvaney became the latest Trump Cabinet pick to articulate a key difference of opinion with what the president outlined as a candidate. Under questioning from Republicans and Democrats, the South Carolina conservative stood firmly behind his long-held views supporting an increase in the retirement age and trimming Medicare benefits for wealthier recipients currently under age 55. And he said he would not shy away from presenting those views to Trump, even if they contradicted the president’s position. Source: theatlantic.com
Trump’s nominees for the secretaries of labor and the Treasury, Andrew Puzder and Steve Mnuchin respectively, have no experience on Social Security. These two positions are by law trustees of Social Security, so the fact that they have no expertise on Social Security doesn’t inspire confidence in these nominations.
The Department of Health and Human Services nominee, Tom Price (Republican congressman from Georgia), has recommended spending cuts for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. According to this article in the New York Times…
There is no way to mesh those ideas with Mr. Trump’s pledge. But Mr. Price, who currently heads the House Budget Committee, has found a way to cut Social Security deeply without Congress and the president ever having to enact specific benefit cuts, like raising the retirement age. Recently, he put forth a proposal to reform the budget process by imposing automatic spending cuts on most federal programs if the national debt exceeds specified levels in a given year.
If Congress passed Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cut, for example, the ensuing rise in debt would trigger automatic spending cuts that would slash Social Security by $1.7 trillion over 10 years, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. This works out to a cut of $168 a month on the average monthly benefit of $1,240. If other Trump priorities were enacted, including tax credits for private real estate development and increases in military spending, the program cuts would be even deeper.
Trump separated himself from other Republican candidates by promising not to touch Social Security during his campaign, but so far the people he has surrounded himself with do not support that promise.