President Donald Trump said at a Fox News town-hall forum on Thursday that he intended to cut entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Trump was asked about the $23 trillion national debt, which has continued to surge under his watch. He campaigned in 2016 on wiping it out but has enacted laws like the 2017 tax law that have piled on more.
The Fox News host Martha MacCallum told the president that if “you don’t cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt.”
“Oh, we’ll be cutting,” he told the audience in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “We’re also going to have growth like you’ve never seen before.”
That would be a reversal from Trump’s promise to leave the two largest federal government programs untouched. But he has recently expressed a willingness to cut funding for both programs, including in a CNBC interview earlier this year.
“At the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look,” he told CNBC’s Joe Kernen.
He walked back those remarks after that interview and again after the Fox News town hall.
Trump tweeted on Friday morning: “I will protect your Social Security and Medicare, just as I have for the past 3 years. Sleepy Joe Biden will destroy both in very short order, and he won’t even know he’s doing it!”
The White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, also defended the president on Twitter, saying Trump was speaking “about cutting deficits, NOT entitlements.”
Social Security and Medicare represent a major chunk of government spending; they constituted almost 40% of the federal budget in 2018. Social Security alone makes up nearly a quarter of all federal spending.
The Congressional Budget Office has projected that both programs will cost $30 trillion over the next decade. But any reform efforts would likely encounter resistance from Democrats who have pledged to shield Social Security and Medicare from cuts.
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