Donald Trump became President because millions of Americans believed him when he promised to protect their financial health. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid keep the budgets of most Americans, especially the elderly, above water. Trump promised over and over again not to cut them.
He did this loud and clear, as a way of differentiating himself from other Republicans. Even before he officially announced his candidacy, he told the conservative “Daily Signal” in May 2015: “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid. Every other Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do.” His announcement that he was a candidate the next month included “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.” In July 2015, he said, “The Republicans who want to cut SS & Medicaid are wrong.” In October 2015, he said, “I am going to save Medicare and Medicaid.” In February 2016, he said, “We're gonna save your Social Security without making any cuts. Mark my words.”
Trump’s promise not to cut Social Security included explicit statements that he would not raise the retirement age, as he said in the Republican debate in March 2016. “And it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is. Not increase the age and to leave it as is.”
In fact, that was never his intention. In his book “The America We Deserve” in 2000, Trump compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme and suggested that the retirement age be raised to 70. In a private conversation with Paul Ryan after he won the nomination, Trump responded to Ryan’s plans to cut Social Security: “From a moral standpoint, I believe in it. But you also have to get elected. And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.’”
And that’s what happened. Trump convinced voters he would protect government programs which insured that average Americans would be able to get health care and retire with some financial dignity. Once he was President, he returned to his “moral standpoint”, the exact opposite of what he had promised.
As soon as he was elected, he appointed former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert as his Social Security advisor. Leppert is in favor of privatizing Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney also favors privatization.
Now the White House has released a new Trump budget, which makes huge cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Under the heading “Reform disability programs”, Trump proposes cuts in Social Security programs which support poor and disabled Americans, totaling $9 billion over the next four years and $72 billion over the next ten years. On the issue of how people will be affected, nobody could be clearer than budget director Mulvaney. When asked in the White House press room, “Will any of those individuals who receive SSDI receive less from this budget?” Mulvaney replied, “I hope so.”
Funding for Medicare will be cut by $266 billion, mainly for patients who still need care after being discharged from hospitals. Medicaid will be cut by $1.1 trillion over ten years, by putting a cap on how much will be spent on individual patients.
Other cuts in Trump’s budget: Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance, and teacher training. He wants to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities.
Every poll shows that most Americans are opposed to cutting Medicaid, Social Security, and the other welfare programs that Trump wants to cut or eliminate. So why is Trump ditching his promises not to cut these programs?
A poll of voters before the 2016 election showed that Republicans, even more than Democrats, said they wanted a leader with honesty, and that was most true for voters with incomes under $50,000 a year. After the election, over 90% of Republican voters believed that Trump was “a strong and decisive leader” who “keeps his promises”.
It is hard to imagine a leader who is less honest than Trump. He has broken his promises about issues which hit Americans right in the wallet and pocketbook. It does take a “strong and decisive” person to repeatedly promise Americans that he will protect their interests in order to get elected, when he had no intention of doing so.
Will Trump’s so-called “base” ever wake up? Does he have to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue before his supporters recognize who he is? Or was he right that even that won’t hurt him?
Published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, February 20, 2018