Donald Trump campaigned on protecting Social Security. At the Miami GOP presidential debate in March, he said he would “do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is; to make this country rich again.” In August, his campaign told CNNMoney that “We will not cut Medicare or Social Security benefits, but protect them both.”
But two of the people said to be helming the president-elect’s Social Security Administration (SSA) transition team have a record of hostility to the program.
In an email obtained by The Intercept, unions representing Social Security employees reported that they had been notified of the names of four SSA veterans who were picked to run the transition team.
They are Mike Korbey, former senior advisor to the principal deputy commissioner in George W. Bush’s SSA; former Reagan SSA commissioner Dorcas Hardy; former SSA Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll; and former SSA General Counsel David Black.
Korbey is a long-time right-wing activist who has argued incorrectly that Social Security is “broken and bankrupt.” He worked for an organization called United Seniors Association, a sort of conservative counterpart to the AARP, that pushed for George W. Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme — and was hired by Bush to help tout his failed push for changes.
Dorcas Hardy, a Reagan administration SSA veteran, has also called for privatizing the program — in 1995, she took part in a press conference at the libertarian Cato Institute to advocate for that idea.
The SSA cannot unilaterally privatize the program. That takes legislation that Congress has to pass and the president has to sign. But if these are indeed the people the Trump administration is picking to helm the SSA, it’s a signal that he may be far more open to cutting benefits or privatizing the program than he let on.