President Trump Has a Great Idea About Social Security—Really

Donald Trump sure looks tired these days, doesn't he?Jim Loscalzo/CNP via ZUMA

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

A few days ago President Trump held a rambling press conference in which he promised to do something about Social Security taxes. He’s already signed an executive action that (if it passes muster in the courts) would defer all payroll taxes through December but then require them to be paid back in a lump sum in January. So one thing he wants to do is forgive the repayment. But then there was more. Trump started to blather about “extending” the payroll tax deferral. Finally, apparently unable to stop himself, he went further and promised to permanently reduce or even terminate the payroll tax. Later in the day, his campaign made that promise explicit:

As with most things, your best bet in this case is to ignore everything Trump says. It’s just meaningless chatter that even Trump himself probably doesn’t understand. But guess what? In this case, he’s accidentally stumbled onto a great idea.

You see, we should terminate the payroll tax. It’s regressive, it’s pointless, and it long ago stopped serving its original purpose. We should get rid of it and simply fund Social Security out of general tax revenues, just like everything else. Why should it have a less reliable funding source than the Pentagon, after all?

So that’s that. Get rid of the payroll tax and increase the personal and corporate income taxes to make up the revenue. At the same time, we can make a bonfire out of the bonds in the Social Security trust fund, televised on national TV for everyone to see. There would be no more ridiculous talk about Social Security “going bankrupt” or endless arguments about whether the trust fund is “real” or “fully funded over the 75-year window.” When it’s all over, we’d pay for Social Security (and Medicare) the same way everything else is paid for: through general purpose taxes. This would save Social Security and Medicare and ensure their full funding forever.

It’s too bad this was just Trump blather. If he were serious about it, it would have been a great idea.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate