Should Billionaires Get Social Security? Trump Wants the Rich to Opt Out
Policy + Politics

Should Billionaires Get Social Security? Trump Wants the Rich to Opt Out


Donald Trump is calling on his rich friends to forgo their payments from the Social Security system.

“I don’t need mine,” Trump, 69, the Republican presidential frontrunner, said at a candidates’ forum in New Hampshire on Monday.

Related: Here’s How Trump’s Tax Plan Would Affect You

"I have friends that are worth hundreds of millions and billions of dollars and get Social Security. They don’t even know the check comes in," Trump said at the Problem Solver Convention in Manchester, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Wealthy people have never been shy about claiming their checks. In fact, there were more than 47,500 millionaires who collected checks in 2010 worth $1.4 billion, according to a study by George Washington University. But the maximum Social Security benefit currently is $2,663 a month – chump change for a real estate magnate like Trump who campaigns from his corporate jet and claims a net worth of $9 billion.

And even if every millionaire and billionaire from Trump and Warren Buffett on down refused to collect their monthly benefits or turned back their checks to the U.S. Treasury, it would hardly put a dent in the retirement system. Some 59 million Americans were receiving retirement, disability or survivors’ benefits from Social Security at a cost of $848.5 billion in 2014, according to a trustee’s report.

About 166 million workers currently contribute payroll taxes to Social Security as part of an inter-generational transfer of wealth. The taxes paid cover the cost of benefits for today’s retirees.

Related: Why Donald Trump Is Vladimir Putin’s Favorite Presidential Candidate

For now, at least, the system has plenty of assets, but that won’t last. Since 2010, Social Security’s cash expenses have exceeded its cash receipts, according to a Pew Research Center study. After 2019, the Treasury will begin to redeem trust fund asset reserves to the extent that the program’s massive outflows exceed tax revenue and interest earnings. Unless Congress eventually steps in to bolster the program, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted by 2034.

While other Republican presidential candidates including Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio have called for major entitlement reform, including reduction in Social Security benefits for future beneficiaries and means testing for wealthier Americans, Trump has vowed to keep his hands off those programs if he is elected president.  And that goes for a proposal he once touted in his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” to raise the retirement age to 70.

Related: Medicare and Social Security Worse than They Look: Trustees

"Not anymore," Trump told CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently when asked whether he still favored that approach, "because now what I want to do is take money back from other countries that are killing us and I want to save Social Security. And we're going to save it without increases. We're not going to raise the age and it will be just fine."