While on the campaign trail, then presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump promised he would never make Medicare or Social Security cuts if elected.
"Save Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it," Trump stated at a rally on June 16, 2015, the day he announced his presidential bid.
"We're going to save your Social Security without killing it like so many people want to do. And your Medicare," Trump promised attendees at a July 2016 rally in Phoenix.
But just a little more than a month after winning the election, Trump nominated Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) as director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The move raised eyebrows for those closely following Social Security and Medicare policy.
You see, Mulvaney is a staunch supporter of cuts to entitlement programs -- especially Social Security and Medicare.
In fact, on Monday Mulvaney told the media he is devoted to changing Trump's mind...
Mulvaney Promises "Brutal Honesty" to Sway Trump on Social Security Cuts
Mulvaney told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday that he's been trying "to socialize the discussion" about entitlement program reform around the White House, The Washington Post revealed that same day. Mulvaney said he's been promoting such discussions in an effort to highlight how Social Security and Medicare are the federal government's biggest fiscal problems.
And to that point, the new budget chief has a point...
Social Security and Medicare together accounted for 41% of federal expenditures in fiscal year 2015, according to SSA.gov's summary of the 2016 annual reports released last June.
Social Security is, in particular, looking like it will run out of money by 2034. Over the program's 82-year history, it had, by the end of 2015, collected roughly $19 trillion from taxes... but it had also paid out $16.1 trillion in benefits. This left a little more than $2.8 trillion in the program's asset reserves - again, at the end of FY2015.
The Social Security Administration's (SSA) trustees project an even direr outcome when it comes to Medicare...
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According to the SSA's June 2016 report, the Medicare Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund will be depleted by 2028 - two years earlier than projected in FY 2014.
The SSA concludes its analysis with a plea from the agency's trustees directly to U.S. legislators: "Address these financial challenges as soon as possible."
That's exactly what Mulvaney said he was doing amid his Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 24 -- he acknowledged he still favors raising the Social Security retirement age to 70 and supports means-testing to reduce Medicare spending.
Mulvaney also noted at that time that his key positions on spending and the national debt directly contradict what President Trump had promised while campaigning.
"I have no reason to believe the president has changed his mind" on not touching entitlement programs, Mulvaney said, according to The Washington Post that day. But, he added, "My job ... is to be completely and brutally honest with him."
And this past Monday, Mulvaney told radio host Hewitt that he thinks he will eventually succeed in getting his fellow politicians to fully realize the reformation steps necessary to keep both the Social Security and Medicare programs solvent.
"I think people are starting to grab it," Mulvaney said, according to The Huffington Post's coverage of the on-air conversation that day. "There are ways that [legislators] can not only allow the president to keep his promise [not to cut benefits], but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these [entitlement] programs."
Unfortunately, Mulvaney's version of Social Security reform may very well include future cuts, which is something Jared Bernstein told The LA Times on Feb. 1 to watch out for.
"Because [these entitlement] programs are so highly valued by recipients," Bernstein, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote, "policy makers say 'reform,' 'overhaul,' 'change,' 'revamp,' and 'fix' the program. In the vast majority of these formulations, these verbs are euphemisms for cuts."
We won't know more about what intentions Mulvaney specifically has in mind - be they "cuts," "overhaul," or "changes" - for at least another week. He told Hewitt on Monday, "As soon as the 2018 spending budget is done at the end of next week, I'm hoping to put together something for the president to look at on the other pieces of entitlement spending, or mandatory spending."
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