Trump, Rubio Battle Over Social Security Reform

March 10, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) and Donald Trump had a lengthy exchange about their differing approaches to entitlement reform at Thursday night's CNN debate.

Rubio discussed his desire to reform Social Security to make it sustainable, while Trump said he would do all he could not to touch it. Rubio said he didn't want to do anything to the program that would be "bad for my mother," but he said that changes would have to be made for younger Americans.

"Anyone who tells you that Social Security can stay the way it is is lying," Rubio said. "Social Security will go bankrupt and it will bankrupt our country with it. So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents."

Rubio gave the example that he'd have to retire at 68, joking he'd be one of the youngest people in the U.S. Senate at that point. Rubio explained as part of his plan that if he'd made a lot of money, his Social Security benefit would not grow as quickly as someone who made less. Rubio said the retirement age would hit a peak of 70.

"For people that are on it now, we don't have to change it at all. If we don't do anything, we will have a debt crisis," he said. "It's not a question of if. It's a question of when."

Trump was challenged by CNN moderator Dana Bash about what he would do if, as the Social Security Administration has said, the program goes bankrupt within 20 years. Trump replied that he'd been watching the "boring" Democratic race on the other side.

"The Democrats are doing nothing with Social Security," Trump said. "They're leaving it the way it is. They want to actually give more ... I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is, to make this country rich again, to bring back our jobs, to get rid of deficits, to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country. Totally rampant."

Trump repeated multiple times he wanted to leave that entitlement program alone, but Bash followed up that fixing the vague "waste, fraud and abuse" he talked about would only save $3 billion and wondered how he would get the $150 billion necessary to preserve the program.

Trump replied that the U.S. was the "policeman of the world" and argued that too much foreign aid was depleting American coffers.

"We're going to negotiate real deals now, and we're going to bring the wealth back to our country," Trump said.

Rubio said that wouldn't be enough to save Social Security, and he brought up his 2010 Senate race where he said he made the risky campaign move to address that specific entitlement reform.

"I'm against any sort of wasting of money on foreign aid," Rubio said. "But it's less than 1 percent of our federal budget. The numbers don't add up ... We can't just continue to tiptoe around this ... Let's get rid of fraud, let's get rid of abuse. Let's be more careful about how we spend foreign aid, but you still have hundreds of billions of dollars of deficit that you're going to have to make up. If we do not do it, we will have a debt crisis, not to mention a crisis in Social Security and Medicare."

Rubio said both parties had failed to address the situation properly.