The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Trump's Forthcoming Retirement Savings Executive Order: A Cruel Joke on Workers

The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of


The following is a statement from Nancy Altman, President of Social Security Works, in reaction to reports that Donald Trump will be signing an executive order on retirement savings this afternoon during a campaign trip to North Carolina:

"Americans are facing a looming retirement income crisis. Using that very real crisis as a pretext, Donald Trump reportedly plans to allow the wealthiest among us to shelter their retirement savings from taxes for a longer period. He will also reportedly seek to make it easier for small businesses to offer 401(k) plans.

This executive order, issued during a campaign swing right before Labor Day, appears to be an effort to benefit wealthy campaign donors and confuse the electorate into thinking Trump's action will benefit them. In reality, it is nothing more than a cruel joke on American workers.

Currently, nearly two-thirds of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings of any kind. Lack of access to tax-favored savings accounts is not the reason. Workers without access to 401(k) plans can already accumulate tax-favored retirement savings in individual retirement accounts.

But, decades of stagnating wages, rising healthcare costs, and skyrocketing inequality have left workers struggling just to keep their heads above water. Families approaching retirement have a median amount of $17,000 in their retirement accounts, and nearly half have $0.

Individual saving for retirement has proven itself to be a failure. The primary beneficiaries from this executive order will be wealthy donors and Wall Street.

Revealingly, Trump reportedly will not be calling for employer matches. Nor has he ever called for increasing the minimum wage or strengthening the right of workers to collectively bargain. These are proposals that would actually increase worker pay, allowing a greater ability to save.

What is needed for retirement security is not individual savings, but Social Security, which is the most universal, efficient, fair and secure form of retirement income. Unlike savings, it provides monthly benefits that cannot be outlived. Expanding it involves no start-up costs, no money going to Wall Street, and no tax subsidies going to the wealthiest among us.

Unlike additional tax breaks for private savings accounts, which will increase income and wealth inequality, expanding Social Security combats inequality through its progressive benefit structure -- and it can be even more progressive if we pay for expanding benefits by demanding that the wealthy contribute their fair share.

Yet Republicans have signaled their desire to cut, not expand, Social Security. They will inevitably use this executive order as an additional excuse to cut Social Security because, they will claim, people should take responsibility and save for themselves now that Trump has given them the option.

The executive order implicitly blames the victims of the retirement income crisis by acting as though they are simply not saving enough. The obvious solution to the retirement income crisis is to expand Social Security. If Trump truly wanted to stand with the American people, that is the policy he would support. Instead, he is standing with Wall Street."

Social Security Works' mission is to: Protect and improve the economic security of disadvantaged and at-risk populations; Safeguard the economic security of those dependent, now or in the future, on Social Security; and Maintain Social Security as a vehicle of social justice.