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House GOP works to secure Social Security

Proposed spending reforms don’t yet have backing from Trump or Biden

Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Ok., (center) and members of the committee's Budget and Spending Task Force Getty Images/Photo by Chip Somodevilla

House GOP works to secure Social Security

Former President Donald Trump has said if he is reelected, he won’t touch Social Security. Last week, Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a budget plan that does.

The proposal from the House Republican Study Committee looks to eliminate the national deficit in seven years.

“Our budget is proof that it’s possible to balance the budget, it’s possible to operate in the black,” the group said in its announcement. “The federal debt is daunting, but it’s not hopeless.”

The Study Committee, which includes about 80 House Republicans, has powerful sway over the party’s direction in the chamber. The group proposes cutting the amount spent on Social Security by: slimming down the Primary Insurance Amount benefit formula (the calculus that determines the benefits received when retiring at the normal retirement age), implementing diminished pay rates for high-income earners, gradually moving toward a flat benefit across the board, and adjusting the retirement age for increases in life expectancy.

“We don’t touch [Social Security] for anyone on or near retirement,” said Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., the chairman of the Study Committee. He stressed that the plan would only affect retirees decades away from the current age threshold of 67.

Hern argued that although the changes might concern some earners, the thought of continuing down the current road should be more alarming.

“Joe Biden and his refusal to address Social Security insolvency will destroy this or any future Congress’ ability to save it for future generations,” Hern said. “Without immediate action, Social Security will run out of money in the next 10 years.

In 2023, the United States spent $857 billion on defense, according to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. In the same year, interest payments on the nation’s debt reached $659 billion. Hern and other Republicans of the Study Committee noted that in just two years, the amount the country pays on its interest will exceed its defense budget.

That’s bad news for Social Security, especially because last year’s Trustee Report noted that the program’s current sources of funding, primarily drawn from dedicated payroll taxes, would only cover all the costs of its services for the next 10 years.

“After 2033, this cumulative amount becomes negative in 2034, which means that the combined Old Age Survivors Insurance and Social Security Disability Trust Funds have a net unfunded obligation through the end of each year after 2033,” the report states.

As the nation’s costs go up and as Social Security’s trust fund amount dwindles, Hern argues that the only way to save the program is by implementing one of three possible solutions: transfer more funds to the program at the expense of something else, increase taxes, or change the parameters of the program.

“Without enacting a massive increase in taxes that will imperil the economy or a multiple-trillion-dollar general fund transfer that worsens our fiscal situation, Congress and the president will have to work in bipartisan fashion to consider options that create savings for Social Security,” the proposal states.

President Joe Biden issued a terse statement on the Republican budget proposal, promising, “I will stop them.”

Trump’s stance on Social Security has shifted a few times. Last year, Trump warned House Republicans to stay clear of changes to the program.

“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Social Security to help pay for Joe Biden’s reckless spending spree,” Trump said. “The pain should be borne by Washington—not by hardworking American families and seniors.”

Earlier this month, he hinted that he might be open to the idea of Social Security reform.

“There’s 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—tremendous bad management. There’s a tremendous number of things you could do,” Trump said.

I asked Hern if he thinks Trump needs to be clearer with his stance going forward.

“I think he will,” Hern said. “I think you’re seeing that now. Obviously as the president you have a lot issues to deal with. And different voter bases. At least the president understands there’s a problem.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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