We formed Respectful Exits several years ago as it was becoming clear that the 60 million members of our cohort were being terminated prematurely and facing unsustainable retirements. As we organized to change employer practices, we saw Social Security as a lifeline when all else failed. Our Longevity Agenda included a call to strengthen it.
Then along came Donald Trump. We now know from an abundance of sources—from family to fact checkers to his own words via Bob Woodward—that he is a habitual and unrepentant liar. Thousands are what used to be quaintly called “white lies.” Others can cause massive harm for millions. Should he be re-elected, his intentional deceit about Social Security may prove the most deadly of all.
Congress created Social Security to prevent elder poverty under the leadership of a Democrat, FDR, and in spite of Republican opposition which continues to this day. Trump’s first great lie came in the 2016 campaign, when he claimed to break with party orthodoxy by promising “I will not touch your Social Security and Medicare.” Millions of older voters believed him, becoming the core of his so-called base.
Who paid for the wall?
Like the famous claim that Mexico would pay for the wall, Trump’s Social Security/Medicare promise was forgotten. Earlier this year he hinted that cuts to these programs might be on the table. Then this fall he dropped the hammer by trying to eliminate the payroll tax, a key funding source of the programs, and then joining his surrogates in lying about how they would be paid for out of the (already over-stretched) federal general fund.
This man is not an amateur or casual liar. He is a master of bait-and-switch. The wall is exhibit A. He could never explain how this extraordinary arrangement could possibly be agreed to by Mexico. Mexican leaders ridiculed the idea and many people laughed at his claim. But his supporters bought it because, at least theoretically, it was something that could happen.
Trump and his apologists have brought the same fantastical thinking to his Social Security “plan.” After he announced his intention to terminate the payroll tax if re-elected, he suggested that Social Security would not be ended—just paid for with other funds from a great and growing economy. His White House clean-up crew put flesh on the lie by assuring people that the trillion dollar-a-year price tag would be “picked up out of the general fund.”
Keeping Social Security front and center.
Oh well, his supporters say, what’s the fuss about? Social Security will be covered. The general fund suggestion has quieted the controversy because, as with the wall, the federal budget could cover it, theoretically. But we all know the long history of intense budget battles over far smaller amounts. Congress fails very year to agree on a budget and will this year adopt a “continuing resolution” to keep government running. The budget battles will be made far worse given the COVID-driven budget-busting expenses this year. I say without fear of error the general fund will never replace the payroll tax. Social Security, like many thousands of older Americans, will be starved to death.
It is time to see through the lies and act decisively to protect Social Security. Life has gotten harder for aging workers and retirees and for the 60 million people who receive payments—millions of whom depend on them entirely, as their only source of income. Their, your, and my futures hang in the balance. Whether it’s the $1,000+ monthly check or the several hundred thousand dollars in lifetime payments the average recipient can expect, we all need to invest some amount now for that vital return.
Dig deep and protect your Social Security
Our prototypical Florida campaign to make clear what is at risk in this election can be ramped up to have a greater and perhaps decisive impact. We have completed the heavy lifting of building the infrastructure and perfecting the messaging of a persuasive campaign. A major investment now can achieve significant results. With sufficient funds we can duplicate this campaign in the other battleground states quickly and inexpensively.
Please make the largest contribution you can at this crucial moment. Let’s retire Trump and put Biden in the White House with a strong mandate to preserve and strengthen Social Security.