The president signaled a willingness to scale back Medicare, a shift from his 2016 platform of protecting entitlement programs.
WASHINGTON — President Trump suggested on Wednesday that he would be willing to consider cuts to social safety-net programs like Medicare to reduce the federal deficit if he wins a second term, an apparent shift from his 2016 campaign promise to protect funding for such entitlements.
The president made the comments on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Despite promises to reduce the federal budget deficit, it has ballooned under Mr. Trump’s watch as a result of sweeping tax cuts and additional government spending.
Asked in an interview with CNBC if cuts to entitlements would ever be on his plate, Mr. Trump answered yes.
“At some point they will be,” Mr. Trump said, before pointing to United States economic growth. “At the right time, we will take a look at that.”
Mr. Trump suggested that curbing spending on Medicare, the government health care program for the elderly, was a possibility.
“We’re going to look,” he said.
The interview left many questions unanswered, including whether Mr. Trump would consider touching Social Security or what part of Medicare he would be willing to shave. The president veered from answering the question about entitlements to talking about the robustness of the American economy and how his policies have helped alleviate poverty and boost jobs for minorities, perhaps suggesting that the need for entitlement programs at their current levels had waned.
The president has already proposed cuts for some safety-net programs. His last budget proposal called for a total of $1.9 trillion in cost savings from mandatory safety-net programs, like Medicaid and Medicare. It also called for spending $26 billion less on Social Security programs, the federal retirement program, including a $10 billion cut to the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which provides benefits to disabled workers.
Spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is expected to cost the federal government more than $30 trillion through 2029, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Mr. Trump’s willingness to consider such cuts marks a shift from four years ago, when he stood out in a field of deficit-minded Republicans in the 2016 primary race with a promise to shield entitlements from cuts.
In a tweet in May 2015, a month before he formally began his campaign, Mr. Trump discussed another Republican’s promises to keep entitlements intact, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.
“Huckabee is a nice guy but will never be able to bring in the funds so as not to cut Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “I will.”
In his formal campaign announcement that year, he said, “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it. Get rid of the fraud. Get rid of the waste and abuse, but save it.”
Democrats are also wrangling over entitlement programs, which are among the fastest growing federal expense. Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. have been arguing for days over Mr. Biden’s past comments about cuts to Social Security, a reminder of how sensitive the issue is for voters.
Republicans have largely avoided talking about rolling back entitlement programs since Mr. Trump became president, assuming that doing so would be a non-starter. Following the $1.5 trillion tax cut that Republicans passed in 2017, some suggested that they would quickly turn to reduce the cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Those ideas gained little traction and federal spending has continued to grow.
The Treasury Department said last week that the federal budget deficit surpassed $1 trillion in 2019. It was the first calendar year since 2012 that the deficit topped that threshold. To help finance deficits, which require the government to sell debt, the Treasury Department plans to begin issuing 20-year bonds.
Other Trump administration officials have been more careful in discussing the need to cut spending on entitlement programs. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin demurred earlier this month when pressed on CNBC about how to scale back spending on entitlements.
“All I’m going to say is that we talked about there needs to be bipartisan review of government spending and that’s something at the appropriate time we’ll look at,” Mr. Mnuchin said.
The administration’s chaotic reversals on Obamacare could deprive millions of coverage.
Meanwhile, the administration’s latest budget, released in mid-March, stands behind legislation known as “Graham-Cassidy,” which was pushed by Republicans in 2017 but never won enough support to be brought to a vote.
The Trojan horse of health care reform, the proposal provides for relatively small initial cuts in federal funding and then huge reductions starting in 2027.
According to a Brookings Institution report, Graham-Cassidy would cost 32 million Americans their health insurance by 2027, just as full repeal would. That’s Donald Trump’s idea of a “beautiful,” “terrific” and “unbelievable” health care plan.
.. The administration’s recent decision to submit a brief in a Texas case asking the court to declare all of Obamacare unconstitutional was well publicized.
Slipping by almost unnoticed was Mr. Trump’s instruction last June to the Justice Department, which was defending the A.C.A., to argue instead that certain key provisions — notably, the requirement that Americans with pre-existing conditions be treated equally — be declared unconstitutional.
A win by Mr. Trump in this case could mean that nearly 20 million Americans would lose insurance, according to the Urban Institute.
The next big change came in 1992 with the nomination and election of Bill Clinton. His moderate platform was similar to his peers’, but his political style was a departure. The concept of a permanent campaign came to the White House. Every move was measured against its short-term political value to the president. The Clinton team launched personal attacks against policy dissenters and against women who brought charges of sexual misconduct against the president. In 1996, Mr. Clinton accused Republican nominee Bob Dole of “trying to destroy Social Security and Medicare” through his support of a bipartisan entitlement-reform effort Mr. Clinton himself had previously praised. By 2001, when Mr. Clinton left the scene, say-anything attack politics had become the normal order of the day in the Democratic Party.
President Obama brought hope of a more tolerant, less deeply partisan politics. But he was surrounded by Clinton alumni who, for the most part, kept on as before. His signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, was introduced and passed only by Democrats—a sharp contrast to the bipartisan approaches taken by Johnson with his Medicare and Medicaid proposals, and by Ted Kennedy with his Medicare prescription-drug legislation. To pass ObamaCare, the White House and its allies launched a full-court press against all House Democrats, including moderates with doubts about its cost and coverage. The legislation passed narrowly, but 63 House Democrats lost their seats in the 2010 midterm elections. That left the body sharply divided between Republican and Democratic partisans, stalling the administration’s legislative agenda for the remaining six years of Mr. Obama’s presidency.
What has Pelosi achieved?
First, as House minority leader, she played a crucial role in turning back George W. Bush’s attempt to privatize Social Security.
.. Then she was the key figure, arguably even more crucial than President Barack Obama, in passing the Affordable Care Act, which produced a spectacular fall in the number of uninsured Americans and has proved surprisingly robust even in the face of Trumpian sabotage.
She helped enact financial reform, which has turned out to be more vulnerable to being undermined, but still helped stabilize the economy and protected many Americans from fraud.
Pelosi also helped pass the Obama stimulus plan, which economists overwhelmingly agree mitigated job losses from the financial crisis, as well as playing a role in laying the foundation for a green energy revolution.
.. whenever you hear Republicans claim that Pelosi is some kind of wild-eyed leftist, ask yourself, what’s so radical about protecting retirement income, expanding health care and reining in runaway bankers?
It’s probably also worth noting that Pelosi has been untouched by allegations of personal scandal, which is amazing given the right’s ability to manufacture such allegations out of thin air.