In a press conference last week, President Donald Trump promised to terminate Social Security if he is reelected. While he never said that he was ending the program, he called for ending the payroll contributions that fund Social Security. Without these contributions, Social Security cannot pay benefits.
Donald Trump once made promises about Social Security that either were extremely misleading or that he is now breaking. As Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works writes: “We now know that what he meant is that cutting Social Security doesn’t go far enough for him: He wants to destroy Social Security.”
As it is, Donald Trump has issued an executive order, which will weaken Social Security, reducing the amount going into the Social Security Trust Funds. If implemented, that order would allow employers to put off transmitting their employees’ payroll contributions to Social Security. It would save nothing for people with jobs today, because their employers will simply hold onto the withheld funds until they are due. Allowing the postponement of payments to Social Security also will not help anyone who has lost his or her job.
Paul Krugman explains it this way on Twitter: “payroll tax cuts are the hydroxychloroquine of economic policy. They won’t do anything to solve the employment crisis, but will have dangerous side effects. Yet, Trump remains obsessed with them as a cure.” You don’t help the fact that unemployment is high and employers have been forced to lay people off by temporarily deferring payroll contributions. It is what you do, though, if your goal is to undermine Social Security.
Krugman further tweets that ending payroll contributions to Social Security and Medicare will: “undermine the finances of programs that are absolutely crucial to the lives of older Americans. If you measure the quality of policy ideas on a scale of 1 to 10, this is a minus 5 or worse.”
Without Social Security’s dedicated revenue, retirees would not be able to depend on the retirement security Social Security offers, as the majority of them do today, many exclusively. With millions of older people losing their jobs prematurely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, these benefits are needed now more than ever. As it is, pension benefits on which many of our parents relied in retirement, are less and less available. And, 401k benefits, when people have them, tend to be small.
If President Trump is reelected and succeeds at terminating Social Security funding, that will end Social Security as we know it. Americans would no longer be able to count on Social Security benefits in retirement. They would not be able to count on Social Security in the event of disability or in the event of the loss of a spouse or parent.
Call your Representatives in Congress to ensure they oppose any plan to deplete the Social Security Trust Funds and leave Americans without Social Security benefits. Let them know that you expect them to speak out against terminating payroll contributions to Social Security. If they do not, assume they want to destroy Social Security. And, if you want Social Security to continue, be sure to vote for candidates who stand behind Social Security.
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