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Where Clinton and Trump Stand on Retirement Programs

Both Clinton and Trump have pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare, but in recent weeks, Trump's advisers have hinted at a move toward cuts.

Key differences: Clinton would expand Social Security benefits for women who are widows and caregivers, and let individuals over age 50 or 55 buy into Medicare. Trump has pledged to preserve Social Security and Medicare throughout his campaign, but recently his advisers have hinted at entitlement cuts to keep both programs solvent in the future.

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Key Clinton quote: “Rather than expand benefits for everyone, I do want to take care of low-income seniors who worked at low-wage jobs. I want to take care of women. [...] I want to start by helping those people who are most at risk.”

Key Trump quote: “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, rampant, totally rampant. And it’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is.”

Social Security is at a critical point. By 2019, interest rates won’t be enough to close the funding gap, and without further reforms, payments will be cut by 21% in 2034.

Clinton’s Social Security platform focuses on her defense of the program. She opposes privatization, as well as reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments or increasing the retirement age. She hopes to expand benefits for those who “need it most and who are treated unfairly today.” This includes caregivers who leave the workforce to look after children or sick family members, as well as widows who face steep benefit cuts when their spouses die.

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To pay for it all, Clinton would increase taxes on those earning more than $250,000 annually. These taxes would add $11 trillion to the Social Security benefits account and keep the program in the black for another 75 years.

Trump has repeatedly said that he won't cut Social Security. His plan to fund benefits is to create new jobs that generate more payroll taxes. In May, however, Trump adviser Sam Clovis hinted at potential entitlement cuts, saying, “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare...to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way.” Trump’s position contrasts with that of many Republicans, who hope to decrease payouts over time by raising the retirement age or calculating cost-of-living adjustments in a less generous manner.

As with Social Security, Clinton opposes any attempts to phase out or privatize Medicare. Her main proposal is a new program called “Medicare for More.” Under Medicare for More, individuals over 50 or 55 would be able to buy into Medicare, which could lead to a better distribution of costs. The program could cover an additional 13 million Americans, including seven million uninsured individuals. Experts have said that Medicare for More might lower insurance costs for younger people, but some worry it could also attract sickly patients who will add to Medicare’s burden. Further analysis will have to wait until Clinton offers specifics regarding the program.

Clinton’s other Medicare proposals include driving down prescription-drug costs for seniors, building on delivery system reforms and endorsing “bundled payments” that allow individuals to make one payment for care rather than pay multiple providers involved in treatment.

Trump has said he won't cut Medicare, but this claim contrasts with more recent statements by Clovis.

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