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Trump vs. Biden: Where 2024 presidential candidates stand on Social Security, Medicare

Former U.S. President Donald Trump watches a video of President Joe Biden playing during a rally for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at the Miami-Dade Country Fair and Exposition on November 6, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump and current President Joe Biden issued opposing views on the future of Social Security on Monday.

While Trump suggested the possibility of cutting “entitlements” on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Biden issued a 2025 budget proposal that states, “No benefit cuts.”

“Make no mistake: Social Security is on the ballot this November,” Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works, an advocacy group for expanding the program, said in a statement.

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Social Security and Medicare face funding shortfalls that will require benefit cuts within the next decade if Congress does not act. Social Security’s combined funds will be depleted in 2034, at which point 80% of benefits may be payable, the program’s trustees projected last year. The Medicare hospital insurance fund, which covers Medicare Part A, may be depleted in 2031.

What we know about Trump’s stance on Social Security

In interviews during his campaign, Trump has generally rejected the idea of changes to Social Security, which he has said would hurt senior citizens.

However, in a Monday interview with CNBC, Trump said that reining in spending on the program could be one way to improve the government’s budget.

“There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting and in terms of also the theft and bad management of entitlements,” Trump said.

Trump did not elaborate on the potential changes he had in mind.

President Biden responded to the interview by posting on X: “Not on my watch.”

It’s not the first time Trump has suggested cuts to Social Security.

In 2020, Trump proposed a budget as president that included an estimated $71 billion in cuts to the program, with changes some advocates feared would make it more difficult to stay on disability benefits. Also in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump suggested a payroll tax cut aimed at putting more money in workers’ paychecks. However, such a policy would reduce the tax income Social Security and Medicare rely on.

In recent interviews, Trump has mostly rejected the idea of changing Social Security.

“You don’t have to touch Social Security,” Trump said during a recent Fox News town hall, suggesting other changes could come before cuts that would hurt senior citizens.

How Biden aims to strengthen Social Security

During the State of the Union on Thursday, President Biden promised to protect both Social Security and Medicare from cuts.

“If anyone here tries to cut Social Security or Medicare or raise the retirement age, I will stop them,” Biden said, while touting plans to “make the wealthy pay their fair share” through additional payroll taxes on people earning more than $400,000.

On Monday, Biden reaffirmed his commitment with the release of a fiscal year 2025 budget proposal that states, “No benefit cuts.”

“The president opposes policies that cut benefits, as well as proposals to privatize Social Security,” the budget states.

Instead, the budget calls for extending the solvency of both Social Security and Medicare by requiring high income workers to pay taxes toward the program on more of their income.

Biden calls for improving Social Security benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income benefits, for seniors and people with disabilities, particularly those with low incomes.

The president also proposes increased funding for the Social Security Administration with the goal of increasing access to benefits. That includes $15.4 billion for the agency’s operations, an almost 9% increase from its fiscal year 2023 funding level.

“The chronically underfunded agency has been struggling to provide proper customer service — including field office closures, long wait times on SSA’s 1-800 phone line, and excessive delays in disability insurance hearings,” Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, said in a statement.

“It is past time for SSA to receive truly adequate funding, and the president’s budget represents a major step in that direction,” he said.

Like Biden, Democrats on Capitol Hill have proposed bills to raise taxes on the wealthy and enhance benefits. Meanwhile, House Republicans last week advanced a budget that calls for a bipartisan commission to evaluate Social Security and Medicare’s solvency issues.

Social Security has been criticized for problems with overpayments that have led beneficiaries to owe money back to the government.

Democrats have argued the underfunded agency needs an increase in funds to address those problems. Republicans, on the other hand, have urged the Social Security Administration to better use the resources already available to the agency.

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