While much of the nation was focused on Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, the president gave an interview in Davos, Switzerland, that undercut one of his key pledges from his 2016 campaign, declaring his intention to “take a look” at cutting benefits to entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.
Asked by CNBC host Joe Kernen whether he would ever consider cutting entitlements, Trump, who had run on a promise to protect Social Security and Medicare, didn’t rule it out.
“At some point they will be. We 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. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, because it’s such a big percentage.”
Kernen then followed up, asking whether Trump was “willing to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare—”
“Well, we’re going — we’re going [to] look,” Trump responded. “We also have assets that we’ve never had. I mean we’ve never had growth like this.”
Trump’s answers were at odds with his position four years ago, when he broke ranks with other Republican candidates and regularly vowed, “We’re not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare.”
The about-face was not lost on the Democrats seeking to challenge Trump in November.
My administration will not cut Social Security or Medicare benefits. Period. We’ll expand them. Meanwhile, Donald Trump is saying he would consider sacrificing seniors' benefits to protect tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and big companies. We have to defeat him in November. https://t.co/ChUrheK1ga— Joe Biden (Text Join to 30330) (@JoeBiden) January 22, 2020
Over and over, Donald Trump promised Americans that he would not cut Social Security and Medicare.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 22, 2020
When we win, we're not going to just protect Social Security and Medicare, we're going to expand them.https://t.co/Yk71q5yXgg
Trump's spent his entire presidency attacking every lifeline we have for struggling families. Democrats will win by not just defending these benefits, but by fighting for progressive expansion of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. See my plans: https://t.co/OPA6cwRqjM https://t.co/B9Tl9bxoqC— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 22, 2020
The Democratic National Committee also seized on Trump’s apparent political blunder.
OOPS. Trump just told on himself.— DNC War Room (@DNCWarRoom) January 22, 2020
He said he's looking to cut your Medicare and Social Security because it's "the easiest of all things" to cut. pic.twitter.com/ef2cDXUJUu
On Thursday, Trump appeared to walk back his comments to CNBC and cast himself as the president who would “save” Social Security. He didn’t mention Medicare.
Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 23, 2020
In 2018, the last year for which data was complete, the Medicare program cost the government $582 billion, or 14 percent of total federal spending. When he ran for president, Trump also promised to eliminate the budget deficit in eight years. Since he took office the deficit has risen by more than 68 percent.
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