Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump, joined by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, speaks during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic on March 25, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Despite 'Frantic' Walk-Back Efforts, Group Says Trump Threat to Destroy Social Security Must Be Believed—and Defeated

"The only prudent course for people who care about their earned Social Security is to defeat Trump this November."

Jake Johnson

As the White House scrambles to contain the political backlash sparked by President Donald Trump's latest threat to defund Social Security if reelected in November, one progressive advocacy group said Thursday that Trump's long history of attacking the New Deal program means he should be taken at his word—and diligently opposed—when he openly states his intention to "terminate" the system's revenue stream.

"The White House is telling us not to believe our own eyes and ears," Social Security Works president Nancy Altman said in response to attempts this week by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and one anonymous administration official to walk back Trump's overt threat last weekend to unilaterally and permanently end the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare.

"Earlier this year, Trump told a room filled with Davos elites that he would look into cutting entitlements—code for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—if he is reelected."
—Nancy Altman, Social Security Works

During a press briefing Wednesday, Trump repeated his threat without equivocating. "On the assumption I win," the president said, "we are going to be terminating the payroll tax after the beginning of the new year."

By attempting to massage and downplay Trump's comments, Altman said, White House officials "insist that Trump did not mean what he said, and 'has no plans' to defund Social Security. So, let's review the evidence."

Altman went on to offer several examples of Trump's hostility to Social Security from both before he took office—in his 2000 book "The America We Deserve," Trump called for the privatization of Social Security—and during his presidency, despite his 2016 campaign vows to protect the popular safety net program from cuts.

"Once in office, Trump's proposed budgets included cuts to Social Security," Altman wrote. "Earlier this year, Trump told a room filled with Davos elites that he would look into cutting entitlements—code for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—if he is reelected. Last week, Trump showed us how he would defund Social Security, when he unilaterally ordered the IRS to stop collecting Social Security contributions temporarily."

Altman said that whether one believes the president's own words or his advisers' attempted walkbacks, "the only prudent course for people who care about their earned Social Security is to defeat Trump this November."

Last Saturday, as Common Dreams reported, Trump signed an executive order instructing the Treasury Department to defer collection of the employee-side payroll tax from September 1 through the end of the year. The order has been met with widespread confusion as well as condemnation from experts and progressive observers who say the deferral is an unconstitutional assault on Social Security and Medicare.

"Employers don't know whether the order is mandatory, what the process will be for eventually paying back the deferred taxes, or even which employees are actually eligible," Bloomberg Law reported this week. "Those questions make it extremely difficult for employers to carry out the changes and adjust their payroll systems."

In an op-ed for Common Dreams on Friday, Max Richtman, president and CEO of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, marked the 85th anniversary of the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935 by warning that Trump "has been enlisted in the effort to dismantle" the program.

"The most glaring example is the president's unilateral (and possibly unconstitutional) action to defer the payroll taxes that fund Social Security through the end of the year," Richtman wrote. "Upon announcing this executive order, the president promised to 'terminate' payroll taxes if re-elected. That would either bankrupt Social Security or force depend on general revenue, which would destroy the program's worker-funded nature and open it up to benefit cuts in the name of deficit reduction."

"On this anniversary, we must renew our commitment to preserving and expanding Social Security in the face of these relentless efforts to undermine it," Richtman added. "Fortunately, the broader public—those who paid for, depend on, and cherish their earned benefits—have an opportunity to elect new leaders who will protect seniors, the disabled, and their loved ones against the 'hazards and vicissitudes' of life that President Roosevelt understood so well."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Political Malpractice': House Democrats' Bill Wouldn't Add Dental to Medicare Until 2028

"I don't want to see it drawn out to as far as the House has proposed," Sen. Bernie Sanders said during a recent press call.

Jake Johnson ·


'How Many More Deaths Must It Take?' Barbados Leader Rips Rich Nations in Fierce UN Speech

"How many more variants of Covid-19 must arrive, how many more, before a worldwide plan for vaccinations will be implemented?"

Jake Johnson ·


To Avert Debt Ceiling Calamity, Democrats Urged to Finally Kill the Filibuster

"The solution is to blow up the filibuster at least for debt limit votes, just as Mitch blew it up to pack the Supreme Court for his big donors."

Jake Johnson ·


Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo