Trump gets burned after touching on Social Security

Trump Faces Backlash for Remarks on Social Security Changes

Former President Trump’s comments on potentially “cutting” Social Security have opened a significant opportunity for President Biden. This situation highlights the sensitive nature of the entitlement program in political discussions.

In an interview with CNBC, Trump mentioned that there are “a lot you can do with entitlements, including cuts.”

However, his team quickly clarified that Trump was referring only to eliminating waste. Nonetheless, his initial statement has provided Biden with ammunition to use against him until the November elections. Democratic candidates for Congress are likely to leverage this as well.

Barrett Marson, a Republican strategist from Arizona, believes the unclear nature of Trump’s comments might lessen their impact.

Marson pointed out that the Biden campaign would likely use the recorded statement extensively. Consequently, Trump’s campaign will have to invest time and resources to counteract this narrative.

Democrats have historically criticized Republicans for proposing cuts to Social Security. For example, in 2022, Senator Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) launched a series of attack ads against his Republican opponent, Blake Masters, for suggesting reforms to the program.

Arizona, which has a high retiree population, plays a crucial role in the potential Biden-Trump rematch in 2024. This issue could also be significant in other states, according to Alex Conant, a Republican strategist.

Conant emphasized that older voters, who are either currently benefiting from these programs or will soon, make up a large portion of the electorate. Thus, these issues are universally important.

Trump, known for his spontaneous remarks, needs to be cautious to avoid similar mistakes in the future, Conant advised.

If Trump is serious about reforming entitlements, he must proactively explain how his plans would not be detrimental, Conant added.

The retraction of his comments suggests that Trump might prefer to maintain the current state of affairs, which Conant and Marson agree is a politically safer stance.

Marson mentioned that the general electorate is not deeply concerned with specific policies. Simply promising to protect Social Security might be sufficient without presenting a detailed plan.

In his State of the Union address, President Biden vowed to “protect and strengthen” Social Security and Medicare. He also proposed making the wealthy contribute more to these programs.

Currently, Social Security taxes apply only to earnings up to $168,600. Biden has proposed extending this tax to incomes above $400,000, leaving the bracket between these two figures unaffected.

Social Security is expected to face insolvency by 2033, which could lead to inevitable cuts without legislative intervention. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates that maintaining the program’s solvency could cost a typical retired couple $17,400 annually.

Maya MacGuineas, president of a bipartisan group, criticized both Trump and Biden for not seriously addressing Social Security’s impending insolvency.

She accused both leaders of focusing on attacking each other rather than proposing viable solutions to save the program.

MacGuineas also criticized the media and advocacy groups for exaggerating the implications of any proposed changes to benefits, hindering a rational debate on the subject.

The Alliance for Retired Americans, which supports Biden for the 2024 elections, criticized Trump’s recent comments. The group’s executive director, Richard Fiesta, highlighted Trump’s past statements that hinted at similar sentiments.

Fiesta argued against reducing benefits or increasing the retirement age, emphasizing that Social Security benefits are already modest. He supports Biden’s approach to increase the program’s revenue.

Trump’s campaign has not provided specific plans for Social Security but stated that he would protect entitlements.

The Biden campaign pointed to the president’s previous statements on the matter as indicative of his stance.

Joseph Antos, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted that neither candidate could afford to ignore this issue. Both need to demonstrate more flexibility to achieve any meaningful reform.

Antos criticized both Trump and Biden for relying on vague promises and stressed the need for discussions on restructuring Social Security and Medicare without inciting fear of benefit loss.

He speculated that there is little political advantage for Trump to delve into this topic before the election, doubting Biden’s willingness to engage in a debate on these issues.

Antos suggested that Trump should not focus too much on learning policy details for a potential debate with Biden.

This article was contributed to by Joseph Choi.