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Trump Aides Do Damage Control on His Comments to “Cut” Social Security, Medicare

“There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting,” Trump said.

Former President Donald Trump waits to take the stage during a campaign rally at the Forum River Center on March 9, 2024, in Rome, Georgia.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump, now the presumptive candidate for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in the 2024 election, appeared to suggest he was open to the idea of “cutting” Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, a notion his aides quickly tried to dispel and that the Biden campaign attempted to capitalize on.

In an interview with CNBC host Joe Kernen, Trump was asked if he had changed his “outlook on how to handle entitlements,” specifically those three programs.

“There is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements — in terms of cutting — and in terms of also the theft and the bad management of entitlements,” Trump responded.

Republicans — and Trump himself — have raised the idea of “cutting” these programs before, but such proposals are wildly unpopular, as many Americans depend on social safety net programs for when they hit retirement age or for if/when they face financial difficulties.

President Joe Biden was quick to share the relevant clip of the interview on his social media page, with a caption that read, “Not on my watch.”

Shortly after, Trump’s campaign team tried to do damage control, with a spokesperson stating that the GOP candidate for president was “clearly talking about cutting waste, not entitlements” themselves.

Yet there are two problems with that presumption. First, the very fact that a statement to clarify Trump’s words was needed at all suggests that Trump’s words weren’t as “clear” as his campaign claims them to be. Second, Trump stated “in terms of cutting” the programs aside from dealing with “bad management” of them.

Trump has proposed cuts to these programs before, including in 2020 as president, when he aimed to reduce spending on Medicaid by $1.5 trillion, on Social Security by $25 billion and on Medicare by $845 billion. Within that proposal, Trump’s White House tried to justify the cuts by claiming they were mainly about wasteful spending — however, a report from Vox noted that the proposed cuts weren’t just for waste.

“When it comes to Trump’s proposed changes to Medicaid and Social Security, the intent is unambiguous: These are cuts to benefits,” that report stated at the time.

Indeed, Trump “included budget cuts to Social Security and Medicare every year of his presidency,” political commentator Dan Pfeiffer noted. “Monday’s comment was also not the first time that he expressed interest in cutting Social Security and Medicare.”

Polling demonstrates Americans want more, not less spending dedicated toward these programs. Indeed, a Data for Progress poll that preceded Biden’s State of the Union address this month found that expansions to these programs were popular.

Eighty-eight percent of voters backed expanding the Medicare provision enacted by Biden during his first term to allow the program to negotiate the cost of popular prescription drugs. On Social Security, 78 percent supported increasing taxes on billionaires in order to increase the number of benefits that program allotted, while 76 percent supported the idea of providing subsidized health insurance in states that haven’t yet expanded Medicaid coverage.

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