WaPo Fact Checks Biden on Misleading Ad About Trump's Plans for Social Security

Posted: Sep 04, 2020 3:45 PM
WaPo Fact Checks Biden on Misleading Ad About Trump's Plans for Social Security

Source: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

The Washington Post called the Biden campaign's bluff on a new ad that makes some lofty accusations about President Trump's plans for Social Security.

Trump recently signed an executive order that would suspend the payment of payroll taxes until the end of the year starting on September 1. The majority of Social Security is financed through the payroll tax. Of course, taxpayers would still be expected to pay at a later date. The deferral was intended to help Americans who are struggling through the coronavirus pandemic, the White House explained. Trump also said that, if re-elected, he would aim to end the payroll tax altogether.

Here's how the Biden camp spun it in their new ad, "Depleted."

“The chief actuary of the Social Security Administration just released an analysis of Trump’s planned cuts to Social Security," the ad claims. "Under Trump’s plan, Social Security would become permanently depleted by the middle of calendar year 2023. If Trump gets his way, Social Security benefits will run out in just three years from now. Don’t let it happen. Joe Biden will protect Social Security.”

The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler is here with the fact check.

Given that few lawmakers supported temporarily suspending the Social Security payroll tax, it’s a stretch to think Trump would win enough support to permanently suspend it — even if that were his policy. But if he wins reelection, it’s fair to think he could win congressional approval to cover the few months of payments owed by the Americans covered by his executive order.

“The president was referring to making forgiveness of the temporary payroll tax deferral permanent," said White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews. "President Trump wants to fully fund and protect Social Security as he has stated numerous times.” 

Kessler determined that the Biden-Harris campaign ad deserved four Pinocchios.

To make a long story short, Democrats ginned up a letter from the chief actuary to describe a plan that does not currently exist. Trump certainly suggested he might eliminate the payroll tax, but then he pulled back from that idea and reiterated that any diversion for a payroll tax holiday would come out of general funds.

The ad refers to “Trump’s planned cuts.” But there are no planned cuts.

The ad cites “Trump’s plan.” But the actuary’s letter says it is referring only to a hypothetical plan sketched out by Democrats.

The ad asserts that if “Trump gets his way,” benefits will run out. But actually the letter says if transfers are made from general funds, no benefits would run out. That, at least at the moment, is what Trump says he would do.

That adds up to Four Pinocchios.

USA Today conducted a similar fact check a few weeks ago, also concluding that President Trump has not advocated for terminating Social Security.

In fact, the Trump campaign referenced instances in which Biden has advocated for Social Security cuts.

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