Memo: Trump’s Huge Vulnerability on Social Security and Medicare

January 22, 2020

President Donald Trump sat down for a rare non-Fox News interview in Davos on Wednesday and made an admission that has big electoral implications. When asked by interviewer Joe Kernen if cuts to Medicare and Social Security were a possibility, President Trump responded, “At some point they will be.” Trump later went on to make it clear that he viewed these cuts as being easy because the programs make up such a large percentage of the budget. (Full transcript of the exchange included below)

Let’s be clear about one thing: Trump’s position on cutting Social Security and Medicare will be featured in far more ads this year than the fact that he has been impeached.

While Trump’s embrace of cuts to Medicare and Social Security is not new, it is in direct contradiction to his 2016 campaign promises and consistently ranks as one of the top-testing negatives against the president among battleground state voters.

Earlier this cycle, Priorities USA tested a battery of criticisms of Trump in a battleground poll and found the following language to be the most bothersome to voters when it comes to supporting Trump’s re-election:

“Donald Trump promised to protect Medicare and Social Security, but his tax cuts for the wealthy increased the deficit dramatically, and now he wants to cut Medicare and Social Security to pay for it.”

Notably, this message was particularly impactful with white non-college voters. Over four out of ten of these voters selected this message as most concerning when considering re-electing Trump.

July polling in Florida found that a plurality (48%) of voters cited Social Security and Medicare as a reason to elect someone else while just 33% cited it as a reason to re-elect Trump. As the graphic below demonstrates, Trump’s proposed cuts to Medicare and Social Security was troubling to white non-college educated voters and turnout targets.

Additionally, our post-election polling in November 2018 found that a plan to cut Social Security and Medicare to pay for Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy was at the top of the list of concerns for both voters who voted for a Democrat for Congress after supporting Trump and new Democratic voters.

Democrats should continue to hold Trump accountable for wanting to cut Medicare and Social Security and, whenever possible, tie it to Trump’s tax cuts for big corporations and the ultra-rich.

Trump also included these cuts in every budget proposal he’s submitted as President, giving Democrats a clear and solid basis for leveling this potent policy attack:

  • CNBC: Trump pledged to protect Medicare and Medicaid, but his 2020 budget calls for major spending cuts

  • Washington Post: Trump proposes big cuts to health programs for poor, elderly and disabled

With Trump scheduled to release a new budget in the near future, it is likely that the administration will continue to add more credence to this argument.

Full Transcript:

JOE KERNEN: Entitlements ever be on your plate?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: At some point they will be. We have tremendous growth. We’re going to have tremendous growth. This next year I– it’ll be toward the end of the year. The growth is going to be incredible. And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a–

JOE KERNEN: If you’re willing–

PRESIDENT TRUMP: –big percentage.

JOE KERNEN: –to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare–

PRESIDENT TRUMP: 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. We never had a consumer that was taking in, through– different means, over $10,000 a family. We never had the kind of– the kind of things that we have. Look, our country is the hottest in the world. We have the hottest economy in the world. We have the best unemployment numbers we’ve ever had. African American, Asian American. Hispanics are doing so incredibly. Best they’ve ever done. Black. Best they’ve ever done. African American. The numbers are incredible. The poverty numbers. The unemployment and the employment. There’s– there is a difference, actually. But the unemployment and employment numbers for African Americans are the best we’ve ever had. You know, we just– came up with a chart, and it was a very important to number to me. African American youth has the highest, by far, unemployment. The best unemployment numbers that they’ve ever had. And the best employment numbers. Right now we have almost 160 million people working in the United States, and we’ve never even been close to that, Joe.