On January 31 2020, the page “Labor 311” shared the following screenshot of tweets from anchor Soledad O’Brien and United States President Donald Trump, in which he vows to “protect Social Security,” while she claims that his 2020 budget proposes $25 billion in cuts to the program:
Although there was initial reporting on Trump’s proposed 2020 budget in early 2019, the tweet by O’Brien was published on January 29 2020:
— Soledad O'Brien (@soledadobrien) January 29, 2020
O’Brien retweeted a January 23 2020 tweet from the President, in which he said:
Democrats are going to destroy your Social Security. I have totally left it alone, as promised, and will save it!
From @Public_Citizen: Trump’s 2020 budget includes $25,000,000,000 in cuts to Social Security.
On January 23 2020, @Public_Citizen tweeted:
Trump's 2020 budget includes $25,000,000,000 in cuts to Social Security. https://t.co/ungIqfZiql
— Public Citizen (@Public_Citizen) January 23, 2020
Upon the release of Trump’s proposed 2020 Budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (which began in October 2019), $25 billion in cuts to Social Security over ten years was a factor widely reported:
Over the next 10 years, Trump’s 2020 budget proposal aims to spend $1.5 trillion less on Medicaid — instead allocating $1.2 trillion in a block-grant program to states — $25 billion less on Social Security, and $845 billion less on Medicare (some of that is reclassified to a different department). Their intentions are to cut benefits under Medicaid and Social Security. T
… The budget also continues an attack on Social Security, including to a program that gives assistance to those who have disabilities that prevent them from being in the workforce. In all, the cuts to Social Security amount to $25 billion over the next 10 years, cutting roughly $10 billion from the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program, which the administration says will be found through cutting down on fraud — a common conservative talking point.
The budget was released on March 11 2019, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders issued a statement mentioning, among other things, the cuts to Social Security:
At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, Trump’s budget pays for his huge tax break to the top one percent by cutting $1.5 trillion from Medicaid, $845 billion from Medicare and $25 billion from Social Security. Make no mistake about it: Trump’s budget is a massive transfer of wealth from working class families to the wealthiest people and most profitable corporations in America.
A March 14 2019 Motley Fool article addressed concerns about cuts to Social Security in the proposed budget, its writer observing that such cuts were unlikely to survive as proposed in the final version:
Relax, folks, this Social Security cut has virtually no chance of being implemented
With Trump proposing $26 billion in cuts to Social Security between 2020 and 2029, you might be growing a bit concerned that bigger expenditure cuts might follow. But this is the point where I tell you that everything’s going to be OK. In fact, the chance of this particular proposal being implemented is very slim, in my opinion.
To begin with, presidential budgets are often a rough draft from which Congress begins pushing and pulling to fit certain fiscal and political agendas. Or, in plain English, it’s a starting point from which discussion begins, not a final draft. By the time a federal spending bill has been signed into law, it often looks nothing like the annual budget or 10-year projections presented months earlier by the president.
After a proposed budget is introduced (as Trump’s was in March 2019), Congress has until June 30th to respond with appropriations. The executive branch then has the ability to respond, and Congress has until September 30th to approve a budget for the fiscal year (which begins on October 1st) to avoid a government shutdown:
The hard deadline for budget approval is September 30. If Congress doesn’t approve it by then, the government can shut down. It did just that in 2013, January 2018, and in December 2018. To avoid shutdowns, Congress usually passes continuing resolutions.
These resolutions keep the government running at spending levels from the last budget. If the government does shut down, it signals a complete breakdown in the budget creation process.
But Trump threw his support behind it in large part because it cleared the decks of a messy budget fight as the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear and because it boosts military spending. Under the deal, defense spending will increase roughly 3 percent over current levels and nondefense spending will go up around 4 percent.
Proposed Social Security cuts once again came to issue in January 2020 following Trump’s tweet. In addition, around the same time, Trump said he was “open” to Social Security cuts. In response, O’Brien and others pointed to Trump’s proposed FY2020 Budget. In short, it is true that Trump’s initial proposed budget for FY2020 included deep cuts to Social Security, a fact in direct conflict with his claim on Twitter that he “totally left it alone, as promised.”