Biden and Trump Try To Wish Away the Looming Entitlement Crisis

“Contrary to what Trump and Biden imply, it is impossible to “protect” Social Security and Medicare by doing nothing. Inaction will guarantee automatic benefit cuts in less than a decade.
In 2033, according to the latest projections, Social Security’s trust fund “will become depleted,” and “continuing program income will be sufficient to pay 77 percent of scheduled benefits.” Two years before then, Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund “will be sufficient to pay 89 percent of total scheduled benefits.””

The Surprising Takeaway From My Survey on How Trump Got a Grip on the GOP Grassroots

“Last February, the county chairs were less supportive of Trump than Republican primary voters as a whole. Yet as time went on, and Trump consolidated support among rank-and-file voters, the chairs fell in line. It’s a reflection of the state of the GOP that has existed since 2016 when Trump first snatched the nomination away from the establishment and took over the Republican Party.
In the pre-Trump era, GOP leaders clearly played more of a role in steering the direction of the party. The 2012 campaign is instructive: Many different candidates were briefly the favorites of rank-and-file Republican voters, from Rick Perry to Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Santorum. But throughout the cycle, party elites’ money and endorsements stayed focused on Mitt Romney, and that’s who got the nomination. This year’s ongoing survey of county chairs illustrates how Republican elites are now more responsive to the grassroots rather than the other way around — either because they lack the interest or the ability to do anything else.”

Trump’s immigration policies are his old ones — but worse

“Along with reupping his old ideas, Trump has spoken at length about how he intends to scale up his past policies, calling for the “largest domestic deportation operation in American history.” He’s focused, too, on bringing back wide-ranging raids to round up undocumented immigrants and setting up new camps where they’d be forcibly detained. And he’s interested in testing out proposals he didn’t get to last term, such as severely limiting birthright citizenship.
Essentially, Trump’s second-term immigration policy is shaping up to be much like his first, but even harsher.

Take Trump’s proposal for a new travel ban, a policy imposed during his first term: “When I return to office, [it’s] coming back even bigger than before and much stronger than before,” Trump said in a July 2023 speech.

That 2016 ban temporarily barred travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US before it was struck down by the courts (only to return in updated form). On his first day in office, President Joe Biden rescinded the ban. This time around, Trump is weighing expanding this ban to encompass people from even more places, including Afghanistan and Gaza, and to bar those who express “communist” and “Marxist” views.

Much of what’s driving Trump’s hardline immigration policies is how they resonate with Republican base voters, including those who subscribe to xenophobic ideas of keeping migrants out and economic claims about immigrants purportedly taking jobs or abusing benefits. Additionally, a recent surge in migrant apprehensions across the southern border, as well as an influx of migrants in major cities across the country, has put the issue more prominently in the news, and provided a platform for Republicans — Trump included — to argue the current administration doesn’t have immigration under control.

Two developments could make Trump’s immigration policy in 2025 more viable than it was in his first term as well. Trump is reportedly planning to staff his next administration with loyalists who will find a way to execute his vision, unlike some of the staffers who’ve tried to restrain him in the past. And changes to the judiciary because of Trump’s appointments — including the stacking of the Supreme Court with his nominees — could mean a better legal reception for his policies.”

Trump just opened the door to Social Security cuts. Take him seriously.

“During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called for a ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States, the targeted assassination of terrorists’ family members, the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and enormous corporate tax cuts.
And voters considered him the most “moderate” Republican candidate in more than four decades.

To the extent this perception had any basis in reality, it reflected Trump’s genuine moderation on one highly salient issue: Unlike many of his GOP predecessors, the mogul emphatically opposed any cuts to Medicare and Social Security. This likely made it a bit easier for ideologically conflicted older Rust Belt voters to pull the lever for a Republican.

As president, Trump never pursued large cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits and implored his party to avoid them during the debt ceiling fight last year.

Since the days of FDR, Democrats have profited from their reputation as the more stalwart guardians of entitlement benefits. Trump’s triangulation threatens to nullify that critical source of partisan advantage. President Joe Biden has therefore sought to portray Trump’s avowed support for Social Security and Medicare as fraudulent. And on Monday, the presumptive GOP nominee bolstered the president’s case.

In an interview with CNBC, Trump said that he was open to cutting entitlement spending. Then, his campaign said that he wasn’t.

Trump’s reflections on public policy tend to bear only a loose resemblance to coherent thoughts. And his remarks about entitlements on CNBC Monday were no exception. In that exchange, anchor Joe Kernen told Trump that “something has to be done” about entitlement costs, then asked if the former president had changed his mind about cutting “Social Security, Medicare, [and] Medicaid” in light of the rising national debt.

Trump replied:

So first of all, there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting, and in terms of, also, the theft and the bad management of entitlements — tremendous bad management of entitlements. There’s tremendous amounts of things and numbers of things you can do. So I don’t necessarily agree with the statement.

Biden pounced on Trump’s words, posting a clip of the Republican’s answer and vowing that no cuts to entitlements would be allowed “on my watch.” The Trump campaign replied, “If you losers didn’t cut his answer short, you would know President Trump was talking about cutting waste.”

This rebuttal is disingenuous. Trump plainly stated that there was a lot that the government could do “in terms of cutting” entitlements and “also” in terms of combating “theft and bad management of entitlements.” What precisely the former president is referring to when he alleges that Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are rife with theft, bad management, and waste is unclear. And neither he nor his campaign has produced any actual evidence of such improprieties.

This said, it’s also true that, by the end of his answer, Trump was evincing disagreement with Kernen’s statement that entitlements needed to be cut. So, one could reasonably argue that, as with so many of Trump’s statements, his musings on entitlement reform were too suffused with internal contradictions and baseless demagogy to have any concrete meaning.

Yet Trump’s gaffe is not the only reason for voters to fear that a Republican victory in November could lead to leaner Social Security benefits.

For one thing, Trump spent his entire presidency trying to cut Medicaid, an entitlement program that provides not only health insurance for low-income Americans, but also long-term care for older voters. And he has tried to cut Social Security benefits for disabled and low-income people.

For another, the GOP’s avowed fiscal commitments cannot be reconciled with preserving Medicare and Social Security in their present forms. Congressional Republicans are committed to enacting trillions of dollars worth of new tax cuts, perennially increasing defense spending, and balancing the federal budget. There is no politically tenable way to do this without cutting Social Security or Medicare.”

Trump’s Alleged Defiance and Deceit Distinguish His Handling of Secrets From Biden’s

“If Joe Biden will not be prosecuted for mishandling classified material, why does Donald Trump face 40 felony charges based on conduct that looks broadly similar? It is a question that Trump’s supporters were bound to ask after Special Counsel Robert Hur, formerly a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney, released his findings about Biden last Thursday. But Hur’s report includes important details that plausibly explain the contrasting outcomes in these two cases. Although Biden’s embarrassingly hypocritical lapses belie his avowed concern about safeguarding material that could compromise national security, the evidence of criminal intent is much stronger in Trump’s case.”

“That provision applies to someone who “willfully retains” national defense information when he “has reason to believe” it “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.””

“”Contemporaneous evidence suggests that when Mr. Biden left office in 2017, he believed he was allowed to keep the notebooks in his home,” Hur writes. Biden took the same position in an interview with Hur’s office, saying “his notebooks are ‘my property’ and that ‘every president before me has done the exact same thing,’ that is, kept handwritten classified materials after leaving office.” In particular, he cited “the diaries that President Reagan kept in his private home after leaving office, noting that they included classified information.”

Hur does not agree with Biden’s understanding of the law. “If this is what Mr. Biden thought, we believe he was mistaken about what the law permits,” he says. But he adds that Biden’s position “finds some support in historical practice.” The “clearest example,” he says, is “President Reagan, who left the White House in 1989 with eight years’ worth of handwritten diaries, which he appears to have kept at his California home even though they contained Top Secret information.”

Yet as far as Hur could tell, neither the Justice Department nor any other federal agency took steps to “investigate Mr. Reagan for mishandling classified information or to retrieve or secure his diaries.” Hur concludes that “most jurors would likely find evidence of this precedent and Mr. Biden’s claimed reliance on it, which we expect would be admitted at trial, to be compelling evidence that Mr. Biden did not act willfully.””

“the classified Afghanistan documents did not come up again in Mr. Biden’s dozens of hours of recorded conversations with the ghostwriter, or in his book. And the place where the Afghanistan documents were eventually found in Mr. Biden’s Delaware garage—in a badly damaged box surrounded by household detritus—suggests the documents might have been forgotten.”

That explanation, Hur says, is reinforced by the fact that Biden’s memory “was significantly limited, both during his recorded interviews with the ghostwriter in 2017” and “in his interview with our office in 2023.””

“Hur notes that Biden’s “cooperation with our investigation, including by reporting to the government that the Afghanistan documents were in his Delaware garage, will likely convince some jurors that he made an innocent mistake, rather than acting willfully”

“Unlike “the evidence involving Mr. Biden,” Hur writes, “the allegations set forth in the indictment of Mr. Trump, if proven, would present serious aggravating facts. Most notably, after being given multiple chances to return classified documents and avoid prosecution, Mr. Trump allegedly did the opposite. According to the indictment, he not only refused to return the documents for many months, but he also obstructed justice by enlisting others to destroy evidence and then to lie about it.”

That alleged conduct underlies eight additional felony charges against Trump. “In contrast,” Hur writes, “Mr. Biden turned in classified documents to the National Archives and the Department of Justice, consented to the search of multiple locations including his homes, sat for a voluntary interview, and in other ways cooperated with the investigation.” Trump’s alleged defiance and deceit, in short, distinguish his conduct from Biden’s: They suggest that Trump retained national defense information “willfully,” as required for a conviction under 18 USC 793(e), and that he committed additional crimes to cover up the underlying offense.”

“Hur plausibly concluded that criminal charges against Biden were not appropriate because there was insufficient evidence that he “willfully” retained documents he was not supposed to have. But that does not let Biden off the hook for repeatedly violating the standard of care that he himself insists is essential to protecting national security.”