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

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the 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.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

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