President Donald Trump posted a tweet on Saturday vowing, “We will not be touching your Social Security and Medicare in Fiscal 2021 Budget.” One day later, the Wall Street Journal published a report indicating that Trump is doing exactly that with his budget proposal.
The Journal’s report, which came a day ahead of the administration officially releasing its budget on Monday, indicates that Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget includes “steep reductions in social-safety-net programs,” including cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security disability programs:
The White House proposes to cut spending by $4.4 trillion over a decade. Of that, it targets $2 trillion in savings from mandatory spending programs, including $130 billion from changes to Medicare prescription-drug pricing, $292 billion from safety-net cuts—such as work requirements for Medicaid and food stamps—and $70 billion from tightening eligibility access to disability benefits.
That Trump is proposing cuts to these programs isn’t surprising — his 2020 budget cut all three as well. It’s a long-running contradiction for the president. He often says he won’t touch these entitlement programs, but he’s continued to employ Republican Party officials who make cutting these programs center to their work.
Trump keeps proposing entitlement cuts and then denying that he did so
In 2015 and ’16, Trump differentiated himself from the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls by campaigning on a vow to not cut entitlements.
“I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Trump told the Daily Signal, a conservative publication affiliated with the Heritage Foundation, in 2015.
As his budget proposals indicate, this promise was an empty one. Trump, however, seems to realize that cutting entitlements is a political loser for him, and as a result has continued to make assertions about preserving them that are at odds with reality.
All Republicans support people with pre-existing conditions, and if they don’t, they will after I speak to them. I am in total support. Also, Democrats will destroy your Medicare, and I will keep it healthy and well!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2018
Last month, however, Trump seemed to have a moment of radical honesty when he told CNBC during an interview conducted in Davos that “at some point” entitlement cuts will be on the table.
CNBC: Will entitlements ever be on your plate [for cutting]?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 22, 2020
TRUMP: "At some point they will be"
CNBC: But you said you wouldn't do that in the past
TRUMP: "We also have assets that we never had" pic.twitter.com/FgZnzYz33l
Those comments created a negative stir, so the very next day Trump tried to walk them back.
Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
Fast-forward less than a month, and Trump is again pushing entitlement cuts. It’s whiplash-inducing.
Democrats have already signaled Trump’s budget is going nowhere
While Trump tries to have it both ways by proposing entitlement cuts while claiming he’s not really doing that, Treasury Department spokesperson Monica Crowley was somewhat more straightforward during a Monday morning appearance on Fox Business.
Asked by host Stuart Varney if she agrees that the new budget “hits the safety net,” Crowley said the president “understands that Washington’s habit of out of control spending without consequence has to be stopped.”
Treasury Secretary Assistant Sec. Monica Crowley defends cuts to entitlements in Trump's new 2021 budget proposal: "The president also understands that Washington's habit of out of control spending without consequence has to be stopped." pic.twitter.com/4VdP3fItJ6— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 10, 2020
But for Trump, not all spending is bad. While his budget cuts non-defense spending by 5 percent, he actually slates defense spending for an increase to $740.5 billion for fiscal year 2021.
Budget proposals are just that — proposals. And while Trump insists that Republicans are the ones trying to save entitlements from destruction, the irony is that the truth is exactly the opposite: Entitlement cuts are dead on arrival as long as Democrats control a chamber of Congress.
House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) alluded to this reality in a statement he released on Sunday blasting Trump for “proposing deep cuts to critical programs that help American families.”
The “budget reportedly includes destructive changes to Medicaid, SNAP, Social Security, and other assistance programs that help Americans make ends meet — all while extending his tax cuts for millionaires and wealthy corporations,” Yarmuth wrote. “Congress will stand firm against this President’s broken promises and his disregard for the human cost of his destructive policies.”