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How Trump and Clinton differ on Social Security and Medicare

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

For all the talking Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have done during the last 18 months, they’ve said almost nothing about Social Security and Medicare.

There’s a reason for that, of course: These two elemental safety-net programs are too expensive to keep going at the current pace, but way too popular to change. So until there’s an emergency, nobody’s likely to touch them.

The emergency will come at some point, since Medicare is due to run short of funds starting in 2028, and Social Security starting in 2034. Budget purists want to address the problem now, since the shortfall will only get bigger the longer we wait. But this isn’t the way dysfunctional democracies work, so we’ll most likely deal with it at the last minute, with the solutions being a combination of reduced benefits and higher taxes to pay for those that remain.

We’ve broken down the candidates’ views on other issues in handy tables that make it easy to compare their positions. But neither Trump nor Clinton has taken any meaningful stand on how to rein in these two mushrooming programs.

Social Security card

For what it’s worth, both candidates say they fully support these two cherished programs and would never, ever, under any circumstances, change a thing. Donald Trump has a plan to crank economic growth up from the current anemic 2% range to 3.5% or higher, which will magically bring in all the extra tax revenue America needs for everything. There’s only a major risk he’ll cause a recession instead.

Clinton, during a private speech we weren’t supposed to know about, said she supported a sweeping budget-reform plan from 2010 known as the Simpson-Bowles report. That’s controversial because Simpson-Bowles suggested modest cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare, along with tax increases, as ways to stabilize both programs and assure their continued existence. Rational people recognize this must happen sooner or later, but politicians who admit so in public are bound to have Geritol bottles and AARP cards rained down upon them. So they just smile. Maybe you should, too.

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman.

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