ANALYSIS: Where 2024 Presidential Candidates Stand on Social Security

Unless changes are made to save the program, an estimated 66 million recipients of Social Security will see those benefits get cut by 23-25 percent.
ANALYSIS: Where 2024 Presidential Candidates Stand on Social Security
(Chris Dorney/Shutterstock)
Patricia Tolson
12/5/2023
Updated:
12/5/2023
0:00

The Social Security Administration announced in March that the taxpayer-funded trust will run dry by 2033.

According to the annual report released by the Social Security Board of Trustees in March, around 66 million people were receiving monthly Social Security benefits, funded by an estimated 181 million workers who pumped $1,107 billion into the trust fund through their payroll taxes by the end of 2022. However, the money being paid out of the fund is 80 percent higher than the revenues coming in.

In 2023, employees contributed 6.2 percent of their earnings up to a maximum of $160,200. Their employer matches those funds. Those who are self-employed contribute both shares or 12.4 percent. Over 40 percent of Social Security recipients currently pay income taxes on a portion of their benefits, which in turn go to the OASDI trust funds as well as Medicare’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund.

Unless changes are made to save the program, an estimated 66 million on Social Security will see those benefits get sliced by 23-25 percent.

Here’s what you should know regarding the positions held by some of the 2024 presidential candidates when it comes to Social Security.

Joe Biden

President Joe Biden is the incumbent Democratic candidate for president in 2024.
During his third State of the Union Address on Feb. 7,  he accused unnamed Republicans of wanting “Medicare and Social Security to sunset” rather than “making the wealthy pay their fair share.”

“Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned it,” he admonished, vowing that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security,” he would “stop them.”

“I’ll veto it,” he said, adding that he would never allow the program to be taken away, “Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.”

It is the same position he took in 2022 when addressing the Social Security Board of Trustees 2022 report. He criticized Republicans then for “their plan” to put programs like Social Security “on the chopping block every five years,” saying he would “work with anyone willing to have an open and honest conversation” about “strengthening the programs that millions of Americans rely on.”

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is a former president and the GOP frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024.

Prior to entering the political arena. Mr. Trump published a book—“The America We Deserved”—in which he referred to the Social Security program as a “huge Ponzi scheme.” He proposed raising the retirement age to 70, a move he suggested would add $3 trillion in revenue to the program in a decade.

In a Jan. 23, 2020, post on social media, then-President Trump said, “Democrats are going to destroy Social Security” and that he had “totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!”

The day before, when asked if entitlements would “ever  be on your plate,” during a CNBC interview from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he said, “At some point they will be.”

While he did not mention Social Security or Medicare specifically, he said, “At the right time, we will take a look at that.”

In January, as Republicans considered cuts to entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, to lift the debt ceiling, Mr. Trump issued a video message, saying, “Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.”

Rather than cutting “the benefits our senior citizens worked for and paid for their entire lives,” he suggested cutting “the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars going to corrupt foreign countries,” the “mass releases of illegal aliens that are depleting our social safety net,” the “left-wing gender programs from our military,” the “billions being spent on climate extremism,” and to “cut waste, fraud, and abuse everywhere that we can find it.”

“Save Social Security,” he stressed. “Don’t destroy it.”

Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis is a GOP contender for the Republican nomination while simultaneously serving as Florida’s governor.

In a 2012 interview with the St. Augustine Record as a candidate for the U.S. Congress to represent Florida’s sixth district, Mr. DeSantis said he “would not change Social Security and Medicare for people who are on the program or near retirement at 55 and over” because there were “settled expectations.”

However, for those in the younger generation, he said the United States needs to “restructure the program in a way that’s going to be financially sustainable.”

He also voiced support for a proposal by then-U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) to privatize Social Security, as outlined in his 2010 “Roadmap For America’s Future.”
In 2013, then-Florida U.S. Rep. DeSantis joined 103 Republicans in voting for a resolution that would have raised the full qualifying age for Medicare and Social Security to 70, according to an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The measure ultimately failed.

As a presidential candidate, Mr. DeSantis has stated in interviews that the Social Security program needs changes, reiterating his openness to changing eligibility requirements for Americans currently in their 30s and 40s.

During a July interview on Fox News, Mr. DeSantis said, “I’m governor of Florida. Of course, we’re going to protect people’s Social Security.”

“When people say that we’re going to somehow cut seniors, that is totally not true,” Mr. DeSantis clarified, insisting that “making changes for people in their 30s or 40s so that the program’s viable” is “a much different thing.”

During the third GOP presidential debate in Miami in early November, Mr. DeSantis was asked if he was “open to raising the retirement age” and how he proposed to keep Social Security sustainable.

Acknowledging that the program is the only source of income for a lot of seniors, he said, “Promise made. Promise kept,” intimating that he would protect the benefits they were currently receiving.

To “shore up Social Security,” he said, “we have to reduce inflation.”

“When you have higher inflation, the seniors get a cost of living adjustment, which means the program’s spending more. But it doesn’t cover the actual increase in the inflation rate.”

Asked again if he would raise the retirement age, Mr. DeSantis said, “When life expectancy is declining, I don’t see how you could raise it [in] the other direction. ”

Nikki Haley

Nikki Haley—a former South Carolina governor and one-time U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during Mr. Trump’s administration—is another contender for the GOP nomination who is currently surging in the polls.
When outlining her economic proposals during a Sept. 22 speech at St. Anselm College, Ms. Haley said, “Entitlement spending is unsustainable.”

“We need reform,” she asserted. “The longer we wait, the harder it gets, and the more painful it will be.”

While promising to “protect those receiving Social Security and Medicare” and to “keep these programs the same for anyone who’s in their 40s, 50s, 60s, or older, period,” she said she would “limit benefits for wealthy people,” “expand the Medicare Advantage plans,” “increase competition,” and “raise the retirement age only for younger people who are just entering the system.”

During the November GOP debate, she was challenged to be specific about “what that age would be” and what “other reforms” she was considering.

“First of all, any candidate that tells you that they’re not going to take on entitlements is not being serious,” she said, noting that Social Security “will go bankrupt in 10 years.”

She called out Mr. DeSantis and Mr. Trump for “joining Biden and [Nancy] Pelosi in ”saying they’re not going to change or do any sort of entitlement reforms.”

“We should keep our promises,” she said. “Those who have been promised should keep it.”

But for those in their 20s, Ms. Haley said, “You go in and change the rules” and “change the retirement age for them.”

“Instead of the cost of living increases, we should go to increases based on inflation,” “limit the benefits on the wealthy,” and “expand Medicare,” she explained.

Pressed a second time to identify a specific age, Ms. Haley only said it would apply to “people in their 20s.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.—an environmental activist, former assistant district attorney in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and the son of former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) and Ethel Kennedy—is a former Democrat, now seeking the presidency as an independent candidate.

While he has rarely discussed his position on Social Security, what he has said is quite clear.

In a June interview on “All-In with Chamath, Jason, Sacks & Friedberg,” Chamath Palihapitiya asked for Mr. Kennedy’s thoughts on “the state of our social safety net and what has to change” what he would “keep the same, and what has to be totally reimagined.”

“I would say it’s a red line for me to touch Social Security or Medicare,” Mr. Kennedy said bluntly. “I think we need to take care of people, particularly people who have spent their whole lives paying into a system with a promise at the end of it and have worked hard, and saved and done what they’re supposed to do. I don’t think it’s right to pull the rug out from under them. This is an issue I need to spend more time looking at and studying. Maybe the next time I come back here, I'll have a better answer for you guys.”

Patricia Tolson, an award-winning national investigative reporter with 20 years of experience, has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo!, U.S. News, and The Tampa Free Press. With The Epoch Times, Patricia’s in-depth investigative coverage of human interest stories, election policies, education, school boards, and parental rights has achieved international exposure. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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