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Some Republican Presidential Candidates Consider Social Security Cuts for Younger Generations

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jul 24, 2023

GettyImages-Social Security-909586630

Some Republican presidential candidates are broaching the idea of cutting Social Security benefits, but only for younger Americans, The Washington Post reported.

“When people say that we’re going to somehow cut seniors, that is totally not true,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Fox News. “Talking about making changes for people in their 30s and their 40s so the program’s viable—that’s a much different thing, and something I think there’s going to need to be discussion on.”

Those comments prompted former Vice President Mike Pence to tell Fox Business, “I’m glad to see another candidate in this primary has been willing to step up and talk about that.”

Former President Donald Trump vowed not to cut Social Security and Medicare, a position supported by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), as he ruled out cuts during the recent debt ceiling negotiations with the White House.

Not only could the discussion of such a policy alienate young voters, but it would do little to address the issue of a funding gap in the coming decades, according to experts, the Post reported.

“It clearly would not address the shortfall, or the short- to medium-term problem we’re going to have in 10 years or less,” Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank, told the Post.

Minus any reforms, Social Security benefits for an estimated 60 million people will be cut by 20 percent starting in 2033, according to the most recent report of the Boards of Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, the Post reported in March. Medicare also faces automatic benefit cuts as soon as 2031, the report says.

A mixture of reduced spending and higher taxes would be needed, policy experts told the Post. Social Security’s old age and survivors insurance trust fund is expected to only be able to pay 77 percent of benefits in 2033, which would probably lead to automatic reductions in payments. One solution, CBS News, reported in March, would be to eliminate the earnings cap on the payroll tax, which is now $160,200.  That would mean that any income above that amount would no longer be exempt from the payroll tax. CBS reported that a December analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that eliminating the cap for earnings over $250,000 would keep the trust fund solvent through 2046.

Although Trump has criticized DeSantis for his stance, the former president has supported raising the age for Social Security eligibility.

“Donald Trump ruled Social Security and other benefits out of bounds politically” for Republican politicians, Bill Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank, told the Post. “But there are still Republicans, including some leading Republicans, who understand we won’t make serious progress on our fiscal problems until everything’s on the table. They’re trying to open that discussion, without it immediately being shut down.”