[This post was updated in August 2016 to reflect new developments.]
Donald Trump is now the Republican presidential nominee. After his decisive victory in the Indiana Republican primary, his two remaining rivals- Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich- dropped out of the race. Trump won the Republican presidential nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in July. What this means for the general election campaign in the fall is unclear and this blog is not the place to speculate on Trump’s chances against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Instead, let’s take a look at what might happen to your retirement if Trump actually becomes president.
To say that Trump’s positions on the issues have been inconsistent is an understatement. In the past, Trump has supported cuts to Social Security as part of an attempt to cut federal debt and reduce the deficit. During this year’s campaign, however, Trump has said that he is opposed to cuts to Social Security. Whether he said that simply for political expediency is unclear. What is clear is that benefit cuts or raising the retirement age, which is the same thing as a benefit cut, are not the solution to Social Security’s long-term funding challenges. In a questionnaire from AARP regarding Social Security, Trump avoided giving any direct answers about his plans to protect Social Security and instead spoke broadly about his economic policy.
Interestingly, Donald Trump collects a pension through his association with the Screen Actors’ Guild. In his financial disclosure reports for his campaign, Trump reports a $110,000 pension, although it does not specify if that is an annual amount or not. Aside from his well-known television appearances as the host of “The Apprentice”, Trump has appeared in TV shows and movies since 1981. One would hope that as a pensioner himself, Trump would be sympathetic to the concerns of teachers, firefighters, and other public employees fighting for their retirement security.
As a businessman, Trump’s record on providing retirement security for his employees has been discouraging. For three years, Trump refused to provide any contributions to his employees’ 401(k) accounts. Even when he is making contributions, Trump provides one of the stingiest 401(k) plans allowed by law. An employee must work for Trump for one year before she even begins to receive any contributions. Then, Trump only makes contributions once a year to his employees’ retirement accounts. This means that someone could work for Trump for 23 months, then be fired by him (a favorite Trump pastime), and receive no retirement contributions at all. While this is certainly Trump’s right as a businessman, it indicates a disturbing lack of concern for his employees’ retirement security.
Finally, Trump chose Indiana Gov. and former congressman Mike Pence as his vice presidential running mate. As a congressman, Pence was a fierce advocate of Social Security privatization and supported virtually every proposed cut to Social Security during his time in Congress. Selecting Pence as his running mate directly contradicts Trump’s promise not to cut Social Security benefits. It should be cause for concern for anyone who cares about public pensions and Social Security that Trump surrounds himself with people like Pence and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Making predictions about Donald Trump’s political future is an uncertain business. Very few people predicted he would win the Republican presidential nomination. Should Trump be elected president in November, workers and retirees would have reason to be concerned about their retirement.