Former President Donald Trump once backed raising the retirement age to 70 and called for privatizing Social Security which he called a “Ponzi scheme” – two positions he has hammered Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for supporting as a former member of Congress and congressional candidate.
Trump made the comments in 2000 in a book he authored called “The America We Deserve,” when he was considering a third-party run for president as a member of the Reform Party.
The campaign has also cited DeSantis’ praise of Paul Ryan’s budget plans during his 2012 congressional campaign with comments that expressed support for privatizing Social Security and Medicare – but a CNN KFile review found Trump himself also once praised Ryan on Medicare, along with the 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, without praising their specific policy proposal, which called for similar changes to Ryan’s plan.
In his book, Trump lamented big cuts the program would need without changes, and said he would consider privatization.
“The truth is undeniable, the workers of America have been forced to invest a sixth of our wages into a huge Ponzi scheme,” Trump wrote. “The solution to the Great Social Security Crisis couldn’t be more obvious: Allow every American to dedicate some portion of their payroll taxes to a personal Social Security account that they could own and invest in stocks and bonds.”
“We can also raise the age for receipt of full Social Security benefits to seventy,” he wrote.
The Trump campaign told CNN that that as president, Trump “has consistently showed he would always protect entitlements. In contrast, DeSantis has consistently voted to cut entitlements, and has long advocated raising the age of retirement.”
“When President Trump was elected and went to Washington, DC, he saw just how corrupt and dangerous Paul Ryan was and prevented his disastrous ideas like cutting Social Security and Medicare from coming to fruition,” Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesman, said in the statement.
In a 1999 interview with NBC News’ Tim Russert prior to the release of the book, Trump said he didn’t want to privatize the program but was open to it.
“I don’t like the idea of privatizing Social Security. I think it’s certainly something that could be looked at. I think the Social Security system is in very serious trouble. Obviously, it’s always going to be backed by the country, but I think it’s in very serious trouble. I would look at privatization. I don’t know that that’s the answer.”
“But you’d open to it?,” asked Russert .
“I’m open to it, yes,” he said.
By the 2010s, Trump broke from what was then Republican orthodoxy and said GOP efforts to change entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare would be political disasters and blasted the Ryan budget – urging Romney not to embrace it as the nominee of the party.
But in the 2012 presidential race, he defended the Republican ticket – and praised Ryan – saying the pair would save the program. Their plan at the time was similar to the Ryan proposals that Trump has hammered DeSantis for supporting.
“I think Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney will save Medicare,” Trump said to Fox News in August 2012. I know they will. And people are starting to understand it. They’re going to be very happy with what’s going on, but they’re going to be very, very unhappy if Obama gets in. I think actually if Obama gets in, and if Obamacare isn’t ended, I really think Medicare will be a thing of the past.”
In October 2012, Trump again strongly praised Ryan on Medicare in an appearance on Fox News – saying his qualm with Ryan’s budget was he should’ve waited until after the election to make his plans public.
“I certainly think it probably would’ve been more appropriate to have waited,” Trump told Sean Hannity. “But I like the energy he brings. I like a lot of the things he’s saying. He’s smart. He truly understands what’s going on with the 17 trillion and the budgets and everything else.
“And I think he’s very strongly in favor of – I know for a fact that he’s gonna save Medicare. The other side’s gonna destroy Medicare. He’s going to save Medicare. And as we know it right now – not with big deductions and big cuts and big, he’s going to save Medicare. Medicare cannot exist with the other side in office. It will explode.”
As a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016, Trump reiterated his approach to not touching entitlements, saying his administration would not change either program.
A budget from Trump’s White House did eventually call for reducing spending on Medicare, according to the nonpartisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, but those reductions would largely affect doctors and hospitals. At the same time, in an interview he later walked back, Trump said cuts to entitlements would eventually be on the table.
“At some point they will be,” Trump said in January 2020 in an interview with CNBC, comments that made their way into a response ad last week from a super PAC supporting Ron DeSantis in a potential bid for the White House.
Asked by CNBC whether he was willing “to do some of the things that you said you wouldn’t do in the past, though, in terms of Medicare,” Trump said: “We’re going to look.”
In another interview in 2020, which he again walked back, Trump said he’d be cutting entitlements.
When a Fox News host noted that trimming the national debt would require cutting entitlement programs, Trump responded that it would be happening along with economic growth.
“Oh, we’ll be cutting, but we’re also going to have growth like you’ve never had before,” Trump said.