Sen. Bill Cassidy isn’t happy with the top contenders in the 2024 race — and thinks both Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be ‘disqualified’ for even pretending to care about Social Security.
“They are willing to sacrifice the financial health of our country and the future of the financial health of senior citizens — to sacrifice it because they want to be re-elected,” Cassidy told Newstimesuk.com in an interview.
‘I think any of them should be disqualified.’
The retirement program will begin to run out of funds by 2034 — automatically cutting benefits by 24 percent when it goes bankrupt.
But both Trump and Biden have mounted attacks on Social Security to go after their political opponents who have claimed they want to ‘cut’ the government-run program – alarming Americans nationwide.
Sen. Bill Cassidy isn’t happy with the top contenders in the 2024 race — and thinks both Donald Trump and Joe Biden should be ‘disqualified’ for pretending to care about Social Security
But Cassidy is taking the issue seriously and is on a crusade to change the dialogue and push Social Security reform to the top of both parties’ tickets.
He has teamed up with Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who allies with Democrats, to assemble a bipartisan group of now about 14 senators committed to supporting reforms to the program before funding runs out.
“We can’t move forward unless we have a presidential candidate who says he’s willing to work with Congress,” the Louisiana Republican told Newstimesuk.com in an interview.
Social Security became a political third rail when President Biden used the State of the Union to claim that ‘some Republicans’ ‘want to see Medicare and Social Security sunset’ – a comment that drew hardline GOP stalwarts and even prompted Representative Marjorie Taylor Green to call out Biden. Did a liar.’
‘So folks, we all obviously agree, Social Security and Medicare are off the table now, right?’ Biden said. ‘We have a consensus.’
Cassidy said that at this point, along with Trump’s comments on the issue, Capitol Hill’s appetite to discuss changes has been dampened.
“Before the State of the Union speech and Trump’s speech, yes, we were getting great buy-in from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats,” Cassidy said.
‘But I find more political courage in my colleagues in the House and Senate than in the leading presidential candidates.’
Trump unloaded on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as ‘a guy who wants to cut Social Security and Medicare’ as he returns to Congress for a non-binding resolution that would raise the age to 70. Deduct a single penny from the program.
Cassidy’s plan, meanwhile, calls for putting an additional $1.5 trillion in an investment fund and allowing that money to mature over 70 years. The plan would cover 75 percent of the Social Security shortfall, assuming a rate of return greater than the cost of investments, which Cassidy noted, ‘has been true since at least 1929.’
The current federal borrowing rate is 3.9 percent, but Cassidy said the fund would target an average growth rate of 8.5 percent.
As for where the money comes from in the first place, the senator said he is open to input.
Cassidy said the federal government could sell its other assets that are ‘currently lying idle.’ ‘Or, we could borrow money, or there could be some sort of agreement to open up some natural resources for development that are not currently being developed. Or, you can raise taxes. I am personally in favor of selling assets.’
He is unlikely to convince House Republicans, who have said under tense debt ceiling negotiations that they would rather risk a default than plunge the nation further into debt, to get on board with rising borrowing for private funds.
Other ideas have been floated — namely raising the payroll tax cap beyond $160,000 and raising the retirement age — though they have not received serious consideration.
Social Security currently allows people to claim benefits starting at 62, but benefits increase while a retiree waits.
Asked if any presidential candidate seemed open to working on reform, “Pence’s got an idea,” Cassidy said, referring to the former vice president, who has not officially entered the race.
“Before the State of the Union speech and Trump’s speech, yes, we had great buy-in from fellow Republicans as well as Democrats,” Cassidy said.
Biden has followed Republicans in cutting Social Security
Cassidy declined to say who he would support in the GOP primary, praising Sen. Tim Scott — who launched his run Monday — as a “good man” of “character” but said he had not discussed Social Security with him.
“It’s pretty clear that President Biden is not interested,” Cassidy said. His team meets with staff at the White House but is shot dead when they ask to meet the president.
“They listened to what they did, never gave a clue,” Cassidy said of the White House staff.
‘Trump’s speech makes it clear that he will campaign pretending there is no problem. It is completely dishonest. He criticizes anyone who talks about it but again, it’s dishonest that the president is so good and the ex-president is so good.’
Cassidy, a gastroenterologist by trade, says she’s become familiar with the issue after working with underinsured and uninsured senior patients for two decades.
‘I’m aware that our fellow Americans who rely on Social Security to stay out of poverty – if you look at what happens with a 24 percent reduction in benefits, the poverty rate among the elderly doubles – doubles!’ she said.
Right now, the senator is focusing on an advocacy campaign. He said he has an ‘almost complete’ law, but is hesitant to let ‘dishonest’ politicians use it to attack him and other lawmakers who signed it.
‘I can promise you that instead of admitting it was a good faith effort to move the ball forward we’re going to leave it there, they’re going to latch on to a little thing they can demagogue and then destroy everything.’
It will be a tough sell to get Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to come up for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate — or even get the support of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Recent projections from the CBO found that the current gap between appropriations and revenues received from the fund—if it continues over the next ten years—will officially reduce the Social Security fund to zero.
Social Security costs are rising as more Americans hit retirement age and leave the workforce, relying solely on funded benefits.
According to the latest estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, two funds will be depleted by 2033 and another large fund will be gone by 2048.
‘Everyone knows that if the president doesn’t approve the idea, it will never be signed into law. And so nobody’s going to waste political capital or just make a statement,’ Cassidy said of his discussions with the leadership.
‘So we’re just hustling, hoping that we can get a presidential candidate who has the courage to be honest with the American people and admit that we’ve got a solution that can solve 75% of the problem,’ the senator said.
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