Trump says reforming Social Security and Medicare is ‘the easiest of all things’ as he appears open to cutting entitlement spending

2020 World Economic Forum in Davos

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2020 World Economic Forum in Davos
source
Reuters
  • President Trump appeared to be open to cutting entitlement spending on Social Security and Medicare in a CNBC interview that aired Wednesday.
  • He said a reform effort could occur at the “right” moment and appeared to credit the economy for providing momentum.
  • The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
  • Any attempt to cut spending on either program would mark a break from his 2016 campaign pledge to preserve Social Security and Medicare.
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President Trump left the door open to overhauling Social Security and Medicare in a CNBC interview on Wednesday, calling any attempt to rein in entitlement spending as “the easiest of all things.”

Trump made the remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he’s touted a message of economic resurgence at the elite gathering of wealthy investors, business titans and academics.

In the interview, the president said entitlement reform could happen at the “right” moment and appeared to credit the strength of the US economy for providing momentum to shrink spending on two of the nation’s biggest government programs.

“At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look,” he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen. “Well, we’re going – we’re going look. We also have – assets that we’ve never had. I mean we’ve never had growth like this.”

The CNBC interview, however, provided few details and little clarity on what shape entitlement reforms could take. Though it’s proved resilient, the US economy is far from the best it’s ever been compared to his predecessors.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Trump, though, recently showed disdain for attempts to rein in the swelling federal deficit, telling donors at a Florida fundraiser, “Who the hell cares about the budget? We’re going to have a country.”

Any initiative to cut spending on Social Security and Medicare would mark a break from his 2016 campaign pledge to protect funding for those programs. In his formal campaign announcement, Trump said: “Save Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security without cuts. Have to do it.”

Entitlements represent a substantial chunk of government spending, approaching nearly half the annual federal budget each year. Social Security and Medicare are highly popular with voters, most of whom believe no cuts should be made to either program.

It’s a key reason that lawmakers have largely kicked the can down the road on addressing the rising price tags of Social Security and Medicare, and it’s been met with resistance from both Republicans and Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office projects both programs will cost $30 trillion over the next decade, an outlook that some experts say could worsen as a result of the 2017 tax cuts collecting fewer tax dollars from the richest Americans and corporations.

Trump’s 2019 budget proposal sought to slash spending on safety-net programs by $1.9 trillion. It pushed for spending $26 billion less on programs related to Social Security – which mostly benefits older Americans – and shaving future spending from Medicare and Medicaid.

In recent days, Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden have traded blows over entitlement programs, particularly regarding the latter’s comments about cutting Social Security while he was in Congress.