Businessman Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio seemed to be speaking different languages Thursday during the CNN Republican debate near Miami when discussing their plans to save Social Security.
Trump said cutting "waste, fraud and abuse" in the U.S. government would be enough to keep Social Security solvent into the future without making significant changes. Rubio, on the other hand, championed raising the retirement age and said that in Trump’s plan, the “numbers don’t add up.”
“Fraud is not enough,” Rubio said, referencing a report mentioned earlier by debate moderators on the subject. “Let’s wipe out fraud, but, as you said, it won’t add up.”
If Rubio was looking for a fight with Trump, the real estate mogul didn’t take the bait.
“Well, I don’t know if he’s saying that,” Trump said moments later when a debate questioner asked him for a response to Rubio saying his plan wouldn’t go far enough. Trump then said he would cut other forms of fraud that weren't being accounted for in the report and vowed to make federal contracts more competitive.
The report released in February by the Committee for a Responsible Budget, a non-profit, bipartisan public policy organization in Washington, agrees with Rubio. Even if all improper payments in the system were cut out, the report says, that would extend the Social Security Administration’s solvency by just three months. Social Security needs $150 billion to extend solvency beyond the estimated 20-year window it currently has left. The savings from "waste, fraud and abuse" would account for just over $3 billion, the group says.
Trump's overall debt reduction plan does include making cuts to programs and agencies across the federal government that aren't accounted for in that report. He has said previously that he plan big cuts to the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 11, 2016
Trump has proven to be a formidable candidate and holds a healthy delegate lead over his competition after strong showings throughout most of the South and elsewhere. He has earned 458 of the pledged delegates so far in the nomination, well ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 359 delegates, Rubio’s 151 delegates and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s 54 delegates.
The businessman also leads in polling of the next states that will vote. Illinois, Missouri, Florida, Ohio and North Carolina will all vote Tuesday and Trump holds sizable leads in all of those except Ohio, where he is trailed closely by Kasich just 2.5 points back, according to averages of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics.
That standing and Trump's victories in early voting states has forced the Republican establishment to reckon with what was previously an unthinkable proposition: Trump is now in strong position to win the nomination unless a major shift in sentiment takes place. That emerging reality and the fear that Trump would be trounced in a general election or severely damage the GOP brand by alienating Hispanic voters and other important demographics in general elections has sparked a “stop Trump” campaign that is led by more traditional Republicans and donors who are commonly referred to, collectively, as the “establishment.”
Trump has made immigration control, including building a border wall between the United States and Mexico, a major point of his campaign. In doing so, he has said Mexicans coming in are “rapists” and criminals. Trump has also criticized Muslims and has said that the U.S. should temporarily ban members of the religion from entering the country in order to re-evaluate immigration policies.