September 17, 2020

This fact-check has been updated.

MediaWise Rating: NEEDS CONTEXT

On Aug. 27, verified Twitter user SocialSecurityWorks claimed that President Donald Trump’s plans to cut Social Security funding would eliminate disability, survivor and retirement benefits in coming years. Is this accurate?

Who is SocialSecurityWorks?

According to its website, SocialSecurityWorks is a political action committee that serves to endorse political candidates who will work to “expand Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid and lower prescription drug prices for all Americans.”

The PAC endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Aug. 13. This might help explain their motives behind making a claim that the president is planning to defund benefits that serve millions of Americans. The source is verified and a legitimate PAC, but they do have a specific agenda.

Did they back up their claim?

Linked inside the tweet was a letter from Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration. In this letter, which was penned at the request of four Democratic senators, Goss explains the effects of a permanent payroll tax cut. Goss’ letter states that, “(i)f this hypothetical legislation were enacted … we estimate that (Disability Insurance) Trust Fund asset reserves would become permanently depleted in about the middle of calendar year 2021,” and also that “… (Old Age and Survivor Insurance) Trust Fund reserves would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023.”

This is a memo from a government official that describes what would happen if payroll taxes were to be permanently cut and no alternative source of revenue was used to pay for these benefits. But is that the president’s plan?

Is this the plan?

While Goss states in his letter that he is “… not aware that anyone has proposed the

hypothetical legislation…” suggested by the four senators, the president has commented publicly on the issue.

At a press conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, the president vowed to make these tax cuts permanent if he’s reelected. The article quotes the president saying, “If I’m victorious on Nov. 3, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax. I’m going to make them all permanent.” This indicates at least one half of the claim is true.

Yes, the president says he plans to cut off the bloodline of Social Security funding (89% in fact). But he still has not explained whether or not he will replace the funding with funds from elsewhere in the budget, or where it would come from.

Our rating

Needs context. The president has talked about terminating the payroll tax, which Social Security Works says would eliminate a number of benefits. However, while the president has discussed terminating Social Security’s primary funding source, the president has never said he will terminate Social Security specifically. The president could propose an alternate way to fund Social Security.


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Correction: This fact-check initially labeled the claim “Mostly Legit.” It has been updated to “Needs Context.” While the president has discussed terminating Social Security’s primary funding source, the president has never said he will terminate Social Security specifically. 

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