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BY DEB ESCOBAR 23 January 2020

January 1 was the 80th anniversary of the first Social Security payments. Since that time, Social Security has become a crucial lynchpin in the retirement income for a majority of Americans. 64 million receive Social Security, and the payments lift at least 22 million of them out of poverty. This means that the program is crucial to the health and welfare of many of our citizens.

During a January 22 interview with CNBC while he was in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, President Trump hinted that he would reform Social Security and Medicare during his second term, calling cutting back on “entitlement” programs “the easiest of all things.”

As mentioned in our posting last April,, these programs are not “entitlements,” they are earned benefits. We have paid into the system via payroll taxes for our entire working lives. There are changes that could be made that would not require cutting benefits yet would stabilize and protect the system.

The GOP wants to raise the retirement age but does not talk about the fact that the present cap on payroll taxes for Social Security is at $137,700. This means that anyone who makes more than that, does not pay a penny more for Social Security. In 2016, this exemption amounted to $1.2 trillion that could have gone toward stabilizing the system, but the rich get a pass. Raising the retirement age (presently at 67 for a full payout), would take decades to show substantial savings. In the interim, the GOP would cut benefits and COLA increases, even though a March 2019 poll from Public Policy showed that 72% of voters oppose such cuts.

Trump’s 2020 budget already proposes $10 billion in cuts to Social Security disability benefits. They also called for cuts in SSDI enrollment, even though the number of enrollees has shrunk in recent years, and the US already has the most stringent eligibility criteria in the world. Alex Lawson of Social Security Works states that “More than half of all claims (for disability insurance) are denied.”

Trump’s new rules for SSDI would impose punitive work requirements, require proving the disability every two years, disallow overlap between unemployment and disability benefits, and cut another $48 billion from projects to encourage beneficiaries to return to work. Trump also proposed cuts to Medicaid, Meals on Wheels, home heating assistance, and State Health Insurance Program (SHIP). These are all programs that support the neediest of our seniors. The Alliance for Retired Americans states that when Reagan made similar changes to regulations, almost 200,000 Americans lost their disability benefits, and one out of ten of them died as a result. 

Senator Mitt Romney recently called for a Congressional rescue committee that would “save Social Security.”  He called his committee bipartisan, though only three Democrats were on the committee, including Doug Jones (AL), Joe Manchin (WV), and Krysten Sinema (AZ), all conservative Democrats who usually side with the GOP. The fear is that “rescue” would mean cuts and raising of retirement age.

How can you take action? First of all, write, email, or call your Congressional representatives and insist that they protect and enhance the Social Security program and that there are no cuts to benefits or cost of living increases, and that disability payments are also not cut. The Social Security Administration is collecting public comments until January 31, and you can submit yours through the Alliance for Retired Americans at You can also visit sites such as to view their fact sheets and sign up for news bulletins that affect retirees.

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