Social Security Cuts Are Once Again On the Table

March 16, 2020

Commentary by Tom Nash

Dan RosenYou could call it a perfect imperfect record. For the fourth consecutive year, the White House is floating a budget proposal which includes substantial cuts to the Social Security program. The President’s fiscal 2021 budget proposal released in early February includes severe cuts to Social Security, but the cuts are not targeting old age and retirement benefits. Instead, the cuts clearly take aim at America’s most vulnerable population: the disabled. Over the next decade, the budget would trim spending by about $35 billion for two programs for disabled children and adults—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—with an additional $505 billion to be chopped out of the Medicare and Medicaid programs, according to The proposed cuts are particularly troubling to the 9.9 million disabled American workers and their families who depend on the very modest monthly benefits paid under SSDI and SSI (on average $1,258 per month.)

For several reasons, these cuts have little chance of happening this year. One reason is that this is an election year. The White House and all the politicians up for re-election know that slashing important social safety-net programs can cost votes—a lot of votes. Another key factor is that this budget is unlikely to muster enough approval votes in Congress. Typically, presidential budget proposals are wish lists—reflections of the executive branch’s priorities. Actual spending bills are passed by Congress. Democrats have made it clear that they won’t support legislation which leads to reductions in safety-net programs, and the House is currently controlled by Democrats.

However, elections can dramatically alter political landscapes. Depending on the outcome of the presidential election, and who has a majority in the House and Senate, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid could be in the crosshairs yet again. If you believe, as we do, that the Social Security disability programs and other key safety-net programs are essential to a just and humane society, we encourage you, our fellow citizens, to learn where the candidates stand on the issues and then exercise your right to vote. (For more on why your vote matters read our blog: Your Vote is Your Voice.)