Trump is taking aim at Social Security
by Buddy Robinson
Trump is taking aim at Social Security
You wouldn't know it from watching the news, but Social Security's future is on
the ballot. If President Trump is re-elected, it's clear that he will try to greatly
weaken and even eliminate Social Security. That's despite his repeated – but
hollow – claims to protect it.
This should not come as a surprise. When he first ran for president, in 2000, he
said he wanted to privatize Social Security, calling it a “Ponzi scheme.”
Hewanted to eliminate guaranteed benefits, and have people gamble on the stock
market instead. He also promoted raising the age of full benefits up to 70.
After starting to serve as President in 2017, his budget proposals each year
have sought large cuts in funding for Social Security disability. His latest one,
for fiscal year 2021, seeks $75 billion in cuts for recipients of Social Security
Disability (over half of whom are age 55 +), over ten years.
This includes $10 billion in benefit cuts, plus plans to reduce the number of people enrolled by about 5 per cent. That would be accomplished with harsher work rules that
determine who can qualify. Another cut is to lower the initial retroactive benefit
that people get when they first go on Social Security Disability. It currently is 12
months retroactive, but Trump wants to reduce it to six months.
His budgets have also included cuts for Social Security's administrative
expenses. That translates into fewer offices, shorter hours, fewer staff, and
longer times to process applications to get on Social Security, or even to get
answers to simple questions.
Don't be fooled by Trump's focus on Social Security just for the disabled.
People on regular retirement Social Security better worry, too. His 2021 budget
proposal talks about a need to “reduce the rate of increase” in Social Security
payments. That sounds like code words to reduce the annual Cost Of Living
Adjustment; increase the age to start getting benefits; reduce the initial benefit
formula – or maybe all of the above.
When you think about the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effect on
families and workers, the importance of Social Security becomes all the more
apparent. The recession that accompanies our pandemic in the US, (worsened
by Trump's botched response) will be depressing future Social Security benefits
for an estimated 4 million Americans who become eligible in 2022, because of
the severe drop in average wages nationally. According to a study by the Center
for American Progress, their benefits will be about $1,428 per year lower than if
the pandemic never happened.
Trump has done something with Social Security in light of the pandemic: He is
allowing businesses to forego collecting Social Security payroll taxes for their
employees, for September through December. After that, those missing taxes
would have to be collected and paid. Not surprisingly, few businesses are
choosing to follow this option. To get a four month vacation from the payroll
taxes, only to have to then pay them back, doesn't make any sense.
Trump has said something else, which is extremely alarming: If re-elected, he
will consider doing away with the payroll tax altogether. If that were to occur,
and no other revenue source found to replace it, then we already know the
result. Social Security's Chief Actuary has testified that if this happens, all
Social Security Disability benefits will cease in mid 2021, and all Social Security
Retirement benefits will cease in mid 2023.
What was he thinking? Despite his coyness, we can see what Trump really
wants: His long-held dream of destroying the current Social Security system,
and turn it into a privatized gamble. Andrew Biggs, who helped write President
George W. Bush's ill-fated privatization proposal, explained recently that
Trump's ideas can lead to changing Social Security into two parts: A small,
income-tax funded benefit for only the poorest, and private investment accounts
for everyone else.
So, Trump really looks at the pandemic as a way to further his goal of wrecking
and privatizing Social Security. We all need to be seriously concerned, and vote
accordingly this November.
(Author Buddy Robinson is the former Staff Director of MN Citizens Federation NE.)
has worked for several years with MN AFL-CIO Retirees