The presumptive Republican presidential nominee reportedly made the comments during a May 12 meeting with Ryan aimed at mending ties between the two top Republican leaders, Bloomberg reported, citing an unnamed source who was in the room. (Ryan has yet to endorse Trump.)
“From a moral standpoint, I believe in it,” Trump said of cutting Social Security. “But you also have to get elected. And there’s no way a Republican is going to beat a Democrat when the Republican is saying, ‘We’re going to cut your Social Security’ and the Democrat is saying, ‘We’re going to keep it and give you more.’ ”
Trump’s professed opposition to cutting Social Security and Medicare has been both a hallmark of his campaign and one of his greatest departures from traditional conservative ideology. And Ryan, who repeatedly criticized Trump before the mogul effectively secured the GOP nomination, has made proposing dramatic reductions in the popular social insurance programs a defining feature of his congressional career.
Many conservative House Republicans told The Huffington Post shortly after the May 12 meeting that that they were unconcerned about Trump’s public posture on the programs. Several members interpreted him as wanting to extend the solvency of Social Security and Medicare solvency through some combination of the benefit cuts and other reforms that conservatives favor.
Trump policy advisor Sam Clovis had already appeared to reverse course on May 11, indicating that Trump would be willing to consider cuts as president.
Of course, what Trump reportedly said to Ryan is consistent with what he told Fox News host Sean Hannity back in 2011.
“Things have to be done, but it has to be done with both parties together,” Trump said at the time. “You can’t have the Republicans get too far ahead of this issue.”
Trump may very well be running his campaign according to beliefs he espoused years ago: Social Security and Medicare must be cut, but telling people that should be avoided, because it is too politically unpopular.
“It is really clear: Donald Trump would 100 percent go along with the Republican donor class position of cutting Social Security,” said Alex Lawson, executive director of Social Security Works, a group that promotes benefits expansion. “He openly says he will lie to the people about it because he knows that the people are against it.”
“In his eyes the ‘moral’ thing to do is to steal people’s hard-earned benefits and not talk about it,” Lawson added.
Social Security, the United States’ public retirement, disability and life insurance program, faces a funding gap beginning in 2034. Without congressional action to either raise the program’s revenues or scale back benefits there will be an across-the-board benefit cut of approximately 20 percent.
The Democratic party has adopted steadily more progressive positions on Social Security in recent years, arguing not only that the shortfall should be closed entirely through revenue increases — such as lifting the cap on earnings subject to Social Security taxes — but also that benefits should be expanded to address a growing retirement income deficit.
Both Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) support increasing benefits and have pledged that they will not cut the program.
Author: Daniel Marans