It's not uncommon for a politician to change their position on one or a number of issues. In fact, it's not even uncommon for them to change party affiliations! But when you are Donald Trump and you say pretty much anything, people tend to listen and often expect to hear some outlandish statement delivered in an equally outrageous manner. He's a ratings machine for sure. However, when Trump discusses Social Security he has proven to be generally more informed than most of his Republican competitors.
To be clear, I am not a supporter of Mr. Trump. I find offensive his statements about John McCain not being a war hero and many of his other disparaging comments that we have all heard by now. Nevertheless, sometimes buried in all his rhetoric are some interesting commentary worth pondering.
Recently, Mr. Trump changed his position on extending the Full Retirement Age for social security benefits. When Scott Pelly of 60 Minutes asked Mr. Trump if he still wanted to delay the full retirement age to 70, he said "No. I don't think we should do that anymore. I want to take back money that we are sending to other countries that want to kill us, and without increases, and we are not going to raise the social security age".
If you are interested in looking up which countries we send foreign aid to and how much we send you can go to "foreignassistance.gov". There is no question that the US sends billions of dollars each year to countries we have significant issues with. I am not going to address this particular matter in this blog however but what interested me most was Mr. Trump's decision to no longer support extending the full retirement age to age 70. He now wishes to keep things as they are.
So what's his motivation behind this significant change in policy affecting social security? His new thinking probably lies in his past position on social security. On March 15, 2013, while addressing the Conservative Political Action Committee in Washington, Mr. Trump stated "As Republicans, if you think you are going to change very substantially for the worse Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in any substantial way, and at the same time you think you are going to win elections, it just really is not going to happen".
Mr. Trump went on to say at the same gathering, "Social Security faces a problem: 77 million baby boomers are set to retire. Now I know there are some Republicans who would be just fine with letting these programs wither and die on the vine. The way they see it, Social Security and Medicare are wasteful "entitlement programs". But people who think this way need to rethink their position. It's not unreasonable for people who paid into the system for decades to expect to get their money's worth- that's not an "entitlement", that's honoring a deal".
And there you have it. Mr. Trump apparently understands one fundamental element of social security, and that is that social security is a very important issue for millions of Americans preparing for retirement and it is not realistic to expect to win an election if you propose to make drastic changes to the program.
There is no question that changes need to be made to Social Security in order to protect it's long term viability for all future beneficiaries. Whether Mr. Trumps latest plan to infuse Social Security with cash by cancelling foreign aid to anti-American countries would be sufficient or appropriate is yet to be determined. It's certainly an issue that will create a lot of debate and interest, a fact I'm sure that did not escape The Donald!
Ash Ahluwalia, NSSA, CCSCA, MBA