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Protecting Social Security Will Pave the Way to the White House

May 14, 2024

As the field of candidates for the presidential election continues to narrow, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are the last ones standing and the campaign for the 2024 general election is well underway. Although the party conventions will officially decide the final nominees, it certainly looks as though President Biden and former President Trump will fight it out to take the reins next year. The winner will be determined in part by which of them can convince voters they’ll be the president who protects Social Security.

Both Biden and Trump have been consistent in saying they will protect Social Security. President Biden has made his position clear throughout his time in office, accusing Republicans of threatening cuts to the program. Trump, meanwhile, has once again picked off a slate of primary rivals one at a time over the last year, thanks in part to his promise to defend Social Security.

Trump declared in no uncertain terms early in 2023 that “under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.” Trump’s messaging has clearly worked.  Some, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, never took a clear position on Social Security. Others, most notably former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, consistently promised to raise the retirement age or else consider measures that could lead to Social Security cuts. Her poor performance in the primaries – winning only Vermont and the District of Columbia – could reflect the lack of enthusiasm from voters on that talking point.

It’s clear that protecting Social Security resonates with voters. But to win the White House, Biden and Trump need more than just pithy promises. While both candidates have been consistent on Social Security, neither has offered a strategic plan to actually keep it up and running. That needs to change – and soon – if either wants to lead America in 2025.

Almost 68 million Americans receive Social Security benefits, and they take their benefits seriously. A Quinnipiac poll conducted last year found 78% of Americans oppose raising the retirement age. Social Security remains the so-called “third rail” of American politics; Trump and Biden would do well to remember that as they gear up for the long slog from now until November.

The 2024 presidential election will bring about many changes, but one thing that should not change is the number of Americans who are eligible to receive Social Security benefits. There needs to be a clear plan from the next president on how to protect the program. We don’t need posturing, empty promises, or cuts in the name of “fiscal responsibility”; we need our leaders to offer up a clear policy that will maintain the critical benefits Social Security provides. President Biden and Donald Trump have an opportunity to do just that if voters send one of them to the White House. It’s up to them to seize the opportunity or squander it as so many politicians have before them. Doing the latter will make it even harder to ultimately protect Social Security.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.

Henry Bonilla is a former Republican congressman who represented Texas' 23rd congressional district in the United States House of Representatives 2005-2007.

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