2.9 million Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security–Biden’s vowing to protect it

President Joe Biden speaks about his administration's plans to protect Social Security and Medicare and lower healthcare costs, Feb. 9, 2023, at the University of Tampa in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

By Isabel Soisson

February 2, 2024

Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians rely on Social Security to have economic security as they get older.

The program’s promise—that if you work hard and pay into it during your prime working years, you’ll be rewarded with a financial safety net as you age—has helped sustain tens of millions of Americans in retirement for decades.

In 2024, the future of the program could be on the line.

Since taking office, and on the campaign trail, President Biden has vowed to protect Social Security. During his 2023 State of the Union address, he promised Americans that he would not allow cuts to Social Security or Medicare under any circumstances. He also urged Congress to help older Americans get the help they need to remain in their homes.

“Tonight, let’s all agree to stand up for seniors,” Biden said. “Stand up and show them we will not cut Social Security. We will not cut Medicare. Those benefits belong to the American people. They earned them.”

When outlining his budget plan last spring, he again promised that he would protect Social Security and Medicare, saying that he would not allow them “to be gutted or eliminated as MAGA Republicans threaten to do.”

As the Social Security Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust (OASI) faces depletion by 2033, the president has also proposed several plans to help fill the $22.4 trillion funding shortage shown in the 2023 Trustees Report. These include changing the way Social Security benefits are assessed and adjusted for inflation, implementing a payroll tax for those whose income is over $400,000 per year, and more.

Progressives have also pitched Biden officials and Democratic leaders in recent months on endorsing a plan to expand Americans’ Social Security benefits, as reported by Politico.

On the other side of the aisle, Congressional Republicans have for years repeatedly tried to cut and/or privatize Medicare and Social Security, referring to the social programs as “entitlements” instead of as critical safety nets that millions of Americans depend on.

At recent Republican presidential primary debates, candidates reiterated this commitment to cutting Social Security, while simultaneously calling for the retirement age to be raised.

Former President Donald Trump, who’s almost certain to be the party’s nominee for the general election this year, has tried to publicly defend the program, while also obscuring his own record on the issue—which included supporting cuts each year he was the president.

In December, Trump rejected claims that he’ll have to make changes to Social Security if he wins the presidency in 2024. During a town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Trump criticized Gov. Ron DeSantis, who recently suspended his presidential campaign, and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley for their plans for Social Security reform.

Despite what he said late last year, Trump’s record includes several examples of actions and comments that show his openness to cuts.

In 2020, while on the campaign trail, Trump said that “at the right time, we will take a look at that,” referring to “entitlement programs” like Social Security. “You know, that’s the easiest of all things [to cut].’”

He made similar comments throughout his campaign and even suggested eliminating the payroll tax, which would have depleted the Social Security trust fund within three years, unless replaced with another source of revenue.

He also proposed cuts to both Social Security and Medicare in every single one of his budgets as president.

Conservative leaders have also begun mapping out specific plans for a second Trump term in the form of Project 2025, a nearly 1,000 page plan that calls for cutting Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age.

Look, I know that a lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare,” Biden said last year. “Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare. But if anyone tries to cut Social Security, we’re going to stop it.”

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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