It used to be said that cutting Social Security was politics’ third rail, a fatal taking of positions.
If that’s still true, you wouldn’t know it from the emerging attention that cutting Social Security is getting.
Indeed, look at Trump’s handling of Social Security, and you may find real flaws in the armor of a Best-of-All-Time economy cloak that Trump tries to wear.
Even as Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden mix it up over whether Biden did or did not say something supportive about a Republican plan in 2008 by then-Rep. Paul D. Ryan for spending reductions, here comes Donald Trump to promise that he is open to revamping entitlement programs towards the end of the year.
End of the year? You mean just after the first week of November, when we are all supposed to troop to the polls to reelect Trump?
As usual, Trump just put the statement out there with no details, with no factual underpinning, and asserting that tackling entitlement spending is “the easiest of all things.” But for sure, we voters should be aware that legislative Trump is definitely putting Medicare and Social Security cuts on the auction action block.
Within days, Trump somehow was trying to turn his statements into a defense of Social Security against incursions by Democrats. Confused?
Just in case you didn’t have enough other reasons to want to reconsider your vote for November, this issue comes packed with dynamite.
Actually, maybe it is good for Trump to toss this red meat out there early. After all, it is a real issue, and it perfectly captures both the Trump case and the Republican case in the elections.
Let’s review: Trump and a compliant Republican Congress passed enormous unpaid for tax cuts in 2018 that were promised to help the middle class but that actually has helped only corporations and the wealthiest in our country. He and they also vastly increased military spending, even while preaching that we should be ending longtime military commitments.
At the same time, the general economic strengthening that began years before Trump have continued on his watch, and unemployment rates have plummeting to all-time lows, but wage increases have lagged. And the country’s deficit is up about 16% over Trump’s first day, because no one is paying for the tax cuts and military increases.
Now, it appears, Trump is going to ask seniors and the near-seniors to pay for the difference through reductions in long-promised benefits.
If we lived in France, we’d all be donning yellow shirts and shutting down the subways and highways.
For years, we’ve recognized that a decline in working adults would face issues paying for an increasing number of seniors, who, through courtesy of medicines, generally are living longer. Already, social security pays benefits to 70 million seniors.
Speaking with CNBC from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump said tackling entitlement spending is easy. “At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look,” Trump said. He later added when asked about entitlements: “Well, we’re going — we’re going to look. We also have assets that we’ve never had. I mean, we’ve never had growth like this.”
Of course, this prompted a White House spokesman to issue a statement to walk the idea back. In the statement, the president is not pushing “benefit cuts” but rather that the administration would be aiming to eliminate things such as “waste” and “fraud” in the programs.
“President Trump is keeping his commitment to the most vulnerable Americans especially those who depend on Medicare and Social Security,” the statement said. “His budgets have proposed more savings to mandatory programs than any President in history, including lowering drug costs, eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse, and getting people off welfare and back to work.”
Um. I get social security, as do most people I know, or they are counting on it as they look ahead. I’m not sure where the fraud is hiding. We spend the monthly benefit on things like rent, food and medical care.
As a 2016 presidential candidate, Trump promised not to cut Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, a position typically more in line with Democrats than other Republicans. As president, his budget proposals as president have called for slight reductions in Medicare and bigger changes to Medicaid spending. He is also seeking curbs to Social Security disability programs, but he has not pursued changes to seniors’ Social Security benefits.
Trump’s recent remarks have appeared to dismiss the importance of the budget deficit, which has grown to about $1 trillion a year under his administration. The government is projected to spend $950 billion on Social Security benefits for older Americans and $150 billion in Social Security disability payments this year, and another $850 billion on Medicare program, which is primarily health care for seniors. Social Security benefits are funded through payroll taxes.
Recent efforts to address rising costs in Social Security and Medicare have been met with stiff, bipartisan resistance. With a Democratic House, it is unlikely to see approval for such proposals, but it may well become a campaign refrain.
Indeed, Trump promised to cut taxes again in a second term, only worsening all of these issues.
If Trump says it is good, look again before accepting it.
‘That’s how authoritarian countries work’: CNN’s Toobin warns Trump is acting like a dictator
On CNN Wednesday, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin broke down the significance of President Donald Trump's decision to pardon several high-powered friends accused of political corruption and tax crimes.
"There is no doubt, under the Constitution, the president has the power to do this," said Toobin. "This is not legally a — an open question. And there is a history of controversial pardons, whether it's President Clinton pardoning Marc Rich, a fugitive financier, or George Herbert Walker Bush pardoning the Iran-Contra people on his way out of the office."
"So what makes this so troubling is in the middle of his term, here he is assigning friends, basically friends and friends of friends, to get pardons and clemency, which is how authoritarians behave, which is playing favorites with your personal friends at a time when you are playing with the opposite of favorites with prosecutorial decisions," said Toobin. "I want these people prosecuted, these people freed — that's how authoritarian countries work. Countries where there is the rule of law, there are systems in place for who gets prosecuted, who gets clemency. This is a very individually-focused way to run a presidency."
GOP’s portrayal of Trump as a corruption fighter torn to shreds as ‘complete nonsense’
Republicans who defended President Donald Trump during impeachment hearings insisted that he wasn't trying to shake down the Ukrainian government to investigate his political foes, but was instead sincerely concerned about fighting corruption abroad.
CNN's John Avlon, however, argued on Wednesday that Trump showed these claims were "complete nonsense" after he unleashed a slew of pardons and commutations for corrupt former public officials, including former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, who both were sent to prison after being found guilty of abusing their offices for personal gain.
Pete Buttigieg answers those who question his family values: ‘I’ve never had to pay off a porn star’
Mayor Pete Buttigieg appeared on CNN Tuesday for a town hall in Nevada where he was asked about his sexual orientation. Thus far, Buttigieg is the first openly gay presidential candidate being taken seriously by both the media and the electorate.
He was asked by a voter how he would deal with the flood of personal attacks on his sexual orientation and his family.
He explained that it would happen and he was ready for it. Speaking about his coming-out story, Buttigieg said that he wasn't sure what impact it would have on his career but that he didn't want to not have a personal life anymore after he got out of the military.