For more than a year, Trump has regularly assailed his rival candidates for “attacking Social Security … attacking Medicare and Medicaid.” He boasted that he was the one “saying I’m not gonna do that,” instead saying that he’d focus on economic growth so that we’d get “so rich you don’t have to do that.”
At the Miami GOP presidential debate in March, he said he would “do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again.”
But that wall now appears to be crumbling.
Trump policy adviser and co-chairman Sam Clovis said last week that the real estate mogul would look at changes to all federal programs, “including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” as part of a deficit reduction effort.
Clovis made the comments at the 2016 Fiscal Summit of the Pete Peterson Foundation, an organization whose founder has spent almost half a billion dollars to hype the U.S. debt and persuade people that the Medicare and Social Security programs are unsustainable. Trump also met privately last week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., an outspoken Medicare privatization advocate.
Clovis previously ran for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat in 2014. During his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination, Clovis made clear that he wanted to privatize the Social Security and Medicare programs.
“I am a strong believer in bringing private models to both Medicare and Social Security,” he told the Des Moines Register. “People my age, we paid in, we’re going to get this, people 55 and older probably ought to be sunsetted into these programs, the way they are, 45 to 55 there probably ought to be a chance to opt in or opt out. Below the age of 45, we need a new system. New systems for both. I think — deal with private accounts, put your money into those.”
He also called for block-granting Medicaid. “Sooner or later, somebody has to stand up and say, ‘We’re going to have to cut programs,’” he said. Turning Medicaid into a block grant program would shift the federal government’s role from paying a fixed percentage of state Medicaid costs to paying a fixed dollar amount, giving the states the flexibility to cut back on eligibility. The block grant proposal floated by House Speaker Ryan in the past would cut Medicaid funding by more than a quarter by 2024.
Trump’s newly hired policy director, John Mashburn, also advocates block-granting Medicaid to rein in overly generous benefits. “You set a finite amount, states have total flexibility with what they do. … if they become too prolific in the benefits they provide, the state voters hold their governor and their legislature accountable for being too free with the taxpayers’ money,” he said during a 2012 interview with the Heartland Institute’s Ben Domenech.