The President’s promise not to touch Social Security was officially revealed to be a sham today. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget slashes $64 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Some media outlets have let the President off the hook by saying the budget does not cut Social Security benefits. This headline from Fox Business News is typical, even in the mainstream media:
Trump’s Budget Slashes Spending, Leaves Social Security & Medicare Untouched – Fox Business News, 5/22/17
A CNN Money correspondent just perpetuated the administration’s misleading spin, telling Wolf Blitzer this afternoon that Trump’s budget “doesn’t touch Social Security.”
Other media outlets are hedging by saying the Trump budget doesn’t cut “core” Social Security benefits – whatever that means. Social Security Disability Insurance is a crucial and inseparable part of Social Security. Period. No amount of parsing can cleave the two. When you cut a program, you hurt people – whether the cuts affect “core” benefits or not.
In this case, the millions of Americans with disabilities who rely on SSDI for basic income security are the ones who stand to be hurt. Though SSDI helps younger Americans, too, most of its beneficiaries are 55 or over – meaning any cuts to the program will hit older Americans particularly hard. The human consequences do not seem to disturb the President’s Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, as is obvious from this exchange with a reporter in the White House press room:
Reporter: Will any of those individuals who receive SSDI receive less from this budget?
Mulvaney: I hope so.
Mulvaney clarified that he thought the program has been enrolling too many people and called for cuts in the number of enrollees, even though that number has been shrinking. Earlier this year, the Budget Director wondered aloud on television why SSDI is considered part of Social Security, despite the fact that it unequivocally is – and has been – since 1956. SSDI is funded by workers’ Social Security payroll tax contributions – just like retirement benefits. Qualifying disability beneficiaries must meet certain work history requirements, same as they do for retirement benefits. When SSDI recipients reach retirement age, they transition seamlessly into the Social Security retirement program. In no way is SSDI separable from Social Security.
The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports that the Trump budget contains $72 billion in cuts to federal disability programs — primarily Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income, which provides income assistance to poor seniors and people with disabilities. The budget does not contain hard details of exactly how SSDI will be cut, but CBPP offers this insight:
$48 billion would come from a vague proposal to “test new approaches to increase labor force participation.” But the Social Security Administration has undertaken many demonstration projects over the years to test new ways to encourage beneficiaries to return to work, and they have consistently shown limited results or proved not cost-effective. The budget also contains other proposals that would cut Social Security benefits for disabled workers and SSI benefits for households with more than one disabled family member. – Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
Cutting benefits for Americans with disabilities fits right in with the cruel theme running through the President’s entire budget, which decimates programs for society’s most vulnerable citizens in order to give the rich and big corporations a massive tax cut. In addition to SSDI, the Trump budget guts Medicaid, and cuts funding for other programs benefitting seniors including Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance, and community service employment.
Candidate Donald Trump repeatedly vowed not to touch Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The drastic cuts to SSDI and Medicaid – along with the weakening of Medicare’s solvency in the Republicans’ healthcare legislation – makes the President zero for three on these promises. Knowing that he cannot be trusted to protect seniors, advocates and everyday Americans must work to defeat the Trump budget in Congress – and make sure it never reaches his desk.