President Trump delivered one of the longest State of the Union speeches, clocking in at 82 minutes.
Trump covered a great number of issues, including the high cost of prescription drugs, the opioid crisis, estate taxes and a new government-wide initiative that will focus on the economic empowerment of women in developing countries.
Although Trump didn’t talk about the $5.7 billion in funds he’s been demanding for a border wall, he spent a fair amount of time talking about illegal immigration.
“My administration has sent to Congress a common-sense proposal to end the crisis on the southern border," Trump said.
There’s no question that there are a lot of issues the administration should be tackling. But glaringly absent from Trump’s plan for the country was a proposal to fix Social Security, which is definitely facing a serious crisis.
By 2034, lacking any fix, the reserves for the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, which pays retirement and survivor benefits, will be unable to pay full benefits. The Disability Insurance Trust Fund, which pays disability benefits, will not be able to pay full benefits in 2032.
If a solution isn’t found, Social Security will only have enough continuing tax income to pay out 77 percent of what is scheduled. Less severe but still falling short, the Disability Trust Fund will only have enough money coming in to cover 96 percent of benefits when its reserves are depleted.
Surely this was worth a line in an 82-minute speech.
“How could President Trump not mention the words ‘Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid’ in his state of the union speech when he promised over and over again that he would not cut these programs,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a response to Trump’s address. “Could it be because his budget proposed massive cuts to these programs in direct violation of his campaign pledge?”
Last week, I asked readers which matters more to them: Border security or retirement security?
“The alleged need for a border wall to deal with an imminent crisis is a totally phony issue, a demagogic lie created by Donald Trump out of whole cloth to pander to his Republican base,” wrote Tom Barksdale of Woodstock, Ga.“Sure, illegal immigration is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with, but the United States is not suffering massive crime, human trafficking, and drug smuggling because of it. And a wall will not solve whatever problems are there. The problems facing Social Security and Medicare are real, and will only get worse with time, without remedial action. Neither program is going to collapse overnight. But failure to act now will only make the solutions worse when they are finally implemented. By all means, fund the border security actions that the experts tell us are needed along the southern border. But billions of dollars for a worthless wall? No way.”
Overwhelmingly, people think that Trump is ignoring the Social Security crisis.
Steve Aldrich of Minneapolis wrote, “Politicians, with their lifetime pensions, access to high quality health care and, in most cases, way above average personal assets, don’t have to worry about their retirements the way most of us do, so it’s a low legislative priority for them. Senior and almost-senior voters need to ratchet up the pressure on these guys to make this a higher priority.”
"I absolutely am more concerned about Social Security,” wrote Donni Jester of Roswell, Ga. “I am 62 years old and I am one of, apparently the minority, who is putting aside money for my retirement. Using calculators available online, I am still behind and that is including current estimates of Social Security payments when I turn 72. I am absolutely terrified that I will outlive my income.”
Lore Weber of Granger, Ind., wrote, “I am not in the least concerned about trying to build a border wall. We have much more effective methods for securing our border. I am very concerned, though, about keeping Social Security in good functioning order. Untold numbers of Americans rely on Social Security. We need to see to it that it will continue to pay out to our senior citizens who rely on it for subsistence and who have paid into the fund for their entire working lives. A border wall won’t put food on your table or pay your rent or medicine. We need sensible priorities which work for the good of all the American people.”
Patricia Hensley of Livingston, Tenn., wrote: “My priority is Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid not a made-up emergency-funded wall that is already in place.”
Teresa Merner of Gibsonville, N.C., wrote: “My husband and I have followed politics for decades and have wondered WHEN are the politicians going to address the issue of Social Security. My husband has been on Social Security for 13 years and I start later this year. Benefits will be there for him but will run out for me (assuming I live as long as the actuarial tables say I will!). Fix Social Security NOW. There is no comparison on how Social Security is much more important than a border wall.”
Ray Laskoski of Bowie, Md., wrote: “I have been waiting for years to finally see someone start to acknowledge what I feel will probably be the worst crisis America can suffer. I am 62 years old and am retired (widowed) yet have more than adequate resources to live comfortably. Yet the recent shutdown has made me realize how much trouble we are in, with the spate of people in the news who cannot (or will not) be able to survive a short-term income deficit.”
Jane D. Fidler of Shelby, Ohio, wrote: “I am in no way concerned about building a WALL! We need to fix Social Security for the next generation of retirees.”
Sharon McClean of Columbia, Md., wrote: “Retirement is more important to me than a physical wall. I do think it’s important to look for smarter ways to make the borders secure, but that should be done with just the existing physical walls we have.”
A few readers thought that even posing the question of border security vs. retirement security was unfair to the president.
Cherrie Pozniak of Murfreesboro, Tenn., wrote: “The wall is more important. The wall will help curb illegal immigration, which costs taxpayers billions. Social Security can easily be fixed by raising the cap.”
“Why can’t government solve two problems at the same time,” Bob Morris of Louisville wrote. “You act as if they cannot. Build the wall and fix retirement entitlements. They should do both.”
“There’s no reason why the Congress cannot solve both problems simultaneously,” wrote Alfred Lockwood of Hendersonville, N.C. “The immediate and simple fix for Social Security is lifting the cap and inflation-indexing the amount withheld.”
Like so many others, Jody Krieger of Kensington, Md., recommended a fix.
“Of course it’s the funding of Social Security that matters most, but it has a simple fix unlike border security,” Krieger wrote. “Get rid of the cap on Social Security earnings (or at least raise it to a much higher figure). I’ve never understood this cap. It basically means that lower/middle income people are proportionally paying more into Social Security than wealthy earners. Why does this make sense? Get rid of this cap, or raise it, and Social Security funding becomes stable.”
“Among other issues we should be looking at [is] raising the retirement age consistent with the increase in longevity we are enjoying,” wrote David Sarver of Issaquah, Wash.
What do you think of Trump’s failure to mention fixing Social Security? Send your comments to email@example.com. Please include your name, city and state. Put “Social Security” in the subject line.
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