Where Do the Candidates Stand on Social Security?

In less than ten years, Social Security’s retirement trust fund will be insolvent. Under the law, this will trigger an immediate 23 percent cut in benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries, which is equivalent to a $17,400 annual benefit cut for a typical, dual-income couple retiring in 2033.

Over the course of the 2024 presidential campaign, candidates on the left and right have indicated where they stand on the issue of Social Security reform. Some candidates have embraced the topic, outlining specific solutions they favor, while others have shied away from it, offering only glimpses into their thinking on the matter. The infographic below summarizes those positions, matching candidates with positions or solutions they have voiced support for.

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US Budget Watch 2024 is a project of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget designed to educate the public on the fiscal impact of presidential candidates’ proposals and platforms. Through the election, we will issue policy explainers, fact checks, budget scores, and other analyses. We do not support or oppose any candidate for public office.

On the Republican side, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has been relatively forthcoming about the need to preserve Social Security and how she would go about doing so. Haley has endorsed increasing the retirement age, albeit for young individuals several decades away from retirement, and limiting Social Security benefits for the wealthy to some degree. Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who recently suspended his campaign for President, supported similar policies.

During the third GOP presidential debate in Miami, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis emphasized the importance of growing the economy as a way to save Social Security.  DeSantis has made clear his dedication to protecting Social Security benefits for current beneficiaries, frequently repeating his mantra of “promise made, promise kept.” Vivek Ramaswamy, who recently suspended his campaign, made similar claims and commitments. During an interview on Fox News, DeSantis did indicate he was open to making changes for young beneficiaries just entering the system, although he did not elaborate further.

Former President Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he would not touch Social Security benefits, in contrast to his primary opponents, whom he accuses of wanting to cut Social Security. Last month, during a townhall hosted by Fox News, President Trump unveiled a proposal to use revenues from federal oil and gas leasing to help fund the program and delay insolvency. However, the total estimated value of all U.S. oil and natural gas proved reserves – on both public and private lands – totals less than $5 trillion, which is significantly short of the $22 trillion shortfall Social Security currently faces.

Like Trump, President Biden’s discussion of Social Security on the campaign trail has mostly focused on his commitment to protecting the program from cuts, which he similarly accuses other candidates of wanting to impose. He has very briefly mentioned an interest in increasing Social Security taxes on those making above $400,000 per year but has not yet made it part of his official platform.

Sadly, it is not possible to meaningfully improve Social Security’s outlook through faster economic growth or by extracting oil. Commitments not to touch Social Security are akin to endorsing a 23 percent across-the-board benefit cut – $17,400 for a typical couple retiring in 2033.


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