President Donald Trump signaled this week that he’s open to cutting federal entitlements to reduce the federal deficit, despite previously campaigning on protecting Medicare and Social Security.
Asked by CNBC at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, whether entitlements would ever be on his plate, Trump responded, “At some point they will be.”
“We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I – it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that,” he added.
Asked by CNBC whether he was willing “to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare,” Trump said: “We’re going look.”
“I mean we’ve never had growth like this. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through – different means, over $10,000 a family,” he said.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he wouldn’t have to touch Social Security because his plan to boost economic growth to at least 4% would take care of the entitlement’s long-term problems.
Social Security is one of the most popular government programs across party lines, along with Medicare. The issue is sure to be a top political issue in the 2020 general election campaign – and it’s even emerging as a heated talking point in the Democratic primary.
Most recently, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has pushed for a “Medicare for All” program and said he wants to expand Social Security benefits, has targeted former Vice President Joe Biden’s record. In the 1980s and 1990s, many high-ranking Democrats, including Biden, sought to signal their seriousness about reducing the federal deficit by expressing a willingness to negotiate with the GOP over plans to slow Social Security’s growth or raise the retirement age.
The President did not offer further details during the interview about what he’s considering cutting.
But Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday that entitlement cuts are not something he would entertain.
“The President said in an interview yesterday at Davos that he will take a look at cutting Social Security and other entitlements after the 2020 election and that it is, actually, he said, the easiest of all things,” Schumer said. “The President promised that unlike other Republicans, he wouldn’t touch Social Security and Medicare. He’s already broken that promise and gone after Medicare. Now, it looks like Social Security is in the President’s crosshairs as well.”
Speaking to press amid the Senate impeachment trial, Schumer added: “(E)ven as this important trial continues, Americans should hear that the President is casually talking about cutting their Social Security at a Swiss ski resort with the global financial elite.”
When Trump announced his run for president in 2015, he promised to “(s)ave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.”
And on Thursday, following Democratic responses to his comments at Davos, Trump reiterated his claim that he would “save” Social Security.
“Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!” Trump tweeted.
As recently as November, the President asserted at a campaign rally that Democratic policies were putting health care entitlements at risk, promising that Republicans would “safeguard” Medicare.
Trump has prioritized major increases to defense spending and implemented tax cuts over reducing the federal deficit, which has ballooned to record highs under the current administration.
And while Trump has talked about preserving entitlements and safety net programs, his previous budget proposals have signaled that the Trump administration has been open to cuts.
The administration’s fiscal 2020 budget proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security, student lending and nutritional assistance for low-income families – a pitch that was unpopular with Democratic lawmakers. The proposal aimed to reduce spending on Medicare by $845 billion over 10 years.
CNN’s Gregory Krieg, Sarah Westwood, Pamela Brown and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.