Social Security and Medicare were not on moderator Kirsten Welker’s topic list during last night’s presidential debate, but some issues are too important to ignore. The candidates themselves broached the issue of Americans’ earned benefits about 24 minutes into the debate, with President Trump accusing Joe Biden of “talking about destroying your Medicare and destroying your Social Security.”
It’s a patently ridiculous assertion, grounded not in fact but in the president’s warped perceptions of reality. The timing of his remark is especially notable since the President himself took a step that could lead to the dismantling of Social Security. On August 8th, he issued an order suspending the payroll tax contributions that workers make toward their Social Security retirement benefits. At the same time, he pledged to “terminate” Social Security payroll taxes if re-elected, which would effectively defund the entire program – and seniors’ benefits along with it.
Joe Biden punched back against Trump’s allegation quickly, reminding voters who truly is threatening older American’s financial and health security.
“This is the guy who’s tried to cut Medicare. The idea that Donald Trump is lecturing me on Social Security and Medicare? The actuary of Social Security said… if [Trump] continues his plan to (terminate) the tax on Social Security, Social Security will be bankrupt by 2023 with no way to make up for it.” – Joe Biden, presidential debate, 10/22/20,
Of course, that is exactly what the Social Security actuary estimated last month in a letter to members of Congress concerned about the impact of eliminating payroll taxes, if they weren’t replaced by general revenue.
The President and his advisors have had a pattern of attempting to undermine Social Security these past three and a half years. But his reckless payroll tax policy was the ‘last straw’ for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. In September, we broke with 38 years of precedent and endorsed Joe Biden for president. Before that, we had stayed out of presidential races, focusing on Congressional elections instead. But at that point we felt we had no choice.
“Never in our organization’s history have we seen such a consistent level of threats to the health and retirement security of America’s seniors. There is no doubt that the most effective way to protect the future for older Americans is to elect Joe Biden as president.” – National Committee president Max Richtman, 9/17/20
As for Medicare, Joe Biden correctly said that President Trump has repeatedly tried to cut Medicare. Each of the annual Trump budget proposals have called for slashing Medicare by billions of dollars. The Trump administration has also undermined traditional Medicare by unfairly promoting for-profit Medicare Advantage plans in its outreach and enrollment materials. Biden also reminded voters that, as President, he will sign legislation finally allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices with Big Pharma, which would significantly reduce drug costs and save the program $345 billion over 10 years.
“We’re going to make sure we reduce the premiums and reduce drug prices by making sure that there’s competition, that doesn’t exist now, by allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the insurance companies.” – Joe Biden, presidential debate, 10/22/20
These discussions of Social Security and Medicare – though all too rare in the 2020 primary and general election debates – could not have made the differences between the two candidates clearer. If given a second term, President Trump will cut and undermine Medicare — and defund Social Security, leaving the 69 million Americans who depend on their earned retirement and disability benefits out in the cold. Joe Biden has a plan to strengthen and expand both programs. That’s the truth. And it truly is not debatable.