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Levin to Voters: Look Past Trump’s Rhetoric on Social Security

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) urged voters to consider what Republican leaders have said in the past about reforming Social Security before they head to the polls, rather than GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s rhetoric on the issue now.

“As we look ahead, not only these next four weeks, but most importantly what happens next year once we face up to issues regarding Social Security, I think everybody has to understand where the Republicans have been going back many years, highlighting what President Bush said in ’05, what Paul Ryan said in ’10, what the platform says now and Trump, despite what he says now, what he said in the year 2000,” Levin said on a conference call sponsored by the organization Americans United for Change, which just released their report, Social Insecurity: GOP Plans Another January Surprise Attack on Earned Benefits.

When asked how the group knows the GOP is going to make a push for reforming Social Security in January of next year, Levin responded, “We’re not 100 percent sure of anything and obviously it depends on the votes of the election and I won’t get into that – it’s a long political discussion.”

Levin, ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, said the purpose of the call was to make it clear where the Republican Party has been “coming from and therefore where they’re most likely to go.”

Former President George W. Bush’s 2005 plan included voluntary personal accounts.

Levin criticized House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plan to reform Social Security, which he originally pitched back in 2010, because it allowed workers to place 40 percent of their payroll taxes into private retirement accounts.

Levin argued that the Republican Party’s platform takes the wrong approach by signaling that all options are on the table for reforming Social Security.

“Essentially what they are saying is they will very much go back to their suggestion that there be privatization,” he said.

According to the projections in the latest Social Security Trustees report, Social Security’s “combined trust fund reserves” for retirement and disability will become “depleted” in 2034.

Levin took a swipe at Trump’s position on Social Security that was mentioned 16 years ago in his book, The America We Deserve.

“Privatization would be good for all of us. Directing Social Security funds into personal accounts invested in real assets would swell national savings, pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into jobs and the economy. These investments would boost national investment, productivity, wages and future economic growth,” he wrote in 2000.

Before Trump announced his campaign for president, Trump told PJM he would not cut Social Security for current beneficiaries.

“You can get rid of the waste and the abuse, and you get rid of that and you have to keep it,” Trump said. “People have paid in for many, many years and it’s very unfair to cut them, so I’m very strong. We’ll take the money back from China and everybody else.”

According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Social Security Administration issued more than $5 billion worth of improper payments in FY2014. Medicare’s improper payments totaled more than $45 billion in FY2014.

As the GOP nominee, Trump has held a similar position on the issue.

“If we are able to sustain growth rates in GDP that we had as a result of the Kennedy and Reagan tax reforms, we will be able to secure Social Security for the future,” read Trump’s plan that was submitted to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations. Our goal is to keep the promises made to Americans through our Social Security program.”

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has proposed requiring upper-income Americans to pay more into the Social Security program.

“Social Security must continue to guarantee dignity in retirement for future generations,” according to the Clinton campaign’s plan sent to AARP. “Hillary understands that there is no way to accomplish that goal without asking the highest-income Americans to pay more, including options to tax some of their income above the current Social Security cap, and taxing some of their income not currently taken into account by the Social Security system.”