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President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Mariotti Building Products on Aug. 20, 2020, in Old Forge, Pa. (AP) President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Mariotti Building Products on Aug. 20, 2020, in Old Forge, Pa. (AP)

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Mariotti Building Products on Aug. 20, 2020, in Old Forge, Pa. (AP)

Miriam Valverde
By Miriam Valverde September 24, 2020

Trump ad distorts Biden’s record on Social Security and Medicare, policy for immigrants

If Your Time is short

  • It’s misleading to say that Biden for decades tried to cut Social Security and Medicare. His overall record is mixed.

  • The ad also gives the wrong impression that Biden is trying to take Social Security and Medicare benefits away from Americans and grant them to immigrants illegally in the country. That’s not Biden’s plan.

  • Biden wants to allow immigrants illegally to buy health insurance, without government subsidies. That would not take away American’s ability to buy their own insurance.

An ad seeking to sway Florida voters to President Donald Trump’s side claims that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has long attempted to take away benefits from Americans and now wants to give them to immigrants illegally in the country. The ad’s claims are inaccurate and misleading.

"Joe Biden tried to cut Social Security and Medicare for decades. ... Now, Biden is promising your benefits to illegal immigrants," says the narrator in the ad posted by Trump for Florida, an official Facebook page for Trump's reelection campaign.

Here’s an overview of the inaccurate elements in the 30-second video posted Sept. 16.

‘Joe Biden tried to cut Social Security and Medicare for decades’

This is not a complete reflection of Biden’s record, which has changed over time. Starting in the 1970s, Biden called for an increase in monthly benefits, then for a one-year freeze, then floated raising the retirement age, then backed a change in how benefits would increase, and now calls for higher monthly checks for the oldest beneficiaries.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Biden spoke in favor of freezes to Social Security as part of an effort to rein in all spending to reduce the deficit. 

In a 1995 speech, Biden said: "When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once. I tried it twice. I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time." 

The Trump ad features a clip of that 1995 speech, but it cut out the part where Biden said he meant freezing "every single solitary thing in the government." 

Biden’s campaign told PolitiFact that throughout his career in Congress, Biden cast nearly 50 votes to increase Social Security benefits or block Republican plans to curtail benefits.

As vice president during the Obama administration, Biden generally focused on protecting Social Security, and resisted moves to privatize Social Security. However, the administration in 2014, proposed changing how Social Security cost-of-living increases were calculated. The method, which the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found would have reduced benefits by 1% to 2% over the course of the average retirement, received push-back and was later dropped.

Biden as a presidential candidate says action is "urgently" needed "to make the program solvent and prevent cuts to American retirees."

The Trump ad cites as evidence for its claim a Jan. 13 article from The Intercept, headlined, "Fact Check: Joe Biden Has Advocated Cutting Social Security for 40 Years." The story said that Biden’s 2020 position to increase Social Security benefits is "at odds with decades of his own advocacy." It cited his stance in the 1980s and 1990s among evidence of his interest in practicing fiscal restraint.

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During the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., similarly claimed that Biden "has advocated cutting Social Security for 40 years." Based on Biden’s nuanced record, we rated that Mostly False.

‘Now, Biden is promising your benefits to illegal immigrants’

This is not Biden’s promise. There is no evidence Biden seeks to deprive Americans of their Social Security and Medicare benefits and give them to immigrants who are violating immigration laws.

Biden’s plans related to health care and seniors do not call for the elimination of Social Security benefits or Medicare for Americans. And Biden has not put forward a policy to entitle immigrants illegally in the country to Social Security benefits, or to give them access to Medicare, his campaign said.

Biden favors allowing immigrants illegally in the country to buy health care plans under the Affordable Care Act marketplace, but without financial help from the government. This would not invalidate U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents’ ability to also buy health care plans in the exchange.

The Trump ad cited May 10, 2019, Fox News reporting. That day, Fox News said Biden supported health care for immigrants illegally in the country. The story said that in response to a question on whether immigrants illegally in the country should "should be entitled to federal benefits" like Medicare or Medicaid, Biden said: "Look, I think that anyone who is in a situation where they are in need of health care, regardless of whether they are documented or undocumented, we have an obligation to see that they are cared for." Video of that response doesn’t show Biden explicitly mentioning Medicare or Medicaid.

Trump in July falsely claimed that under Biden’s policy, immigrants in the country illegally "get welfare benefits. United States citizens don't get what they're looking to give illegal immigrants."

Trump’s campaign did not respond to our queries, and neither did the White House. But a Trump campaign official told the Washington Post’s Fact Checker that Biden supported Obama-era programs that defer deportation for immigrants and make them eligible for Social Security. As the Washington Post pointed out, people receive Social Security benefits if they pay into the system, and immigrants wouldn’t be taking away "your benefits," as the ad implied.

Our ruling

A Trump campaign ad claimed, "Joe Biden tried to cut Social Security and Medicare for decades. ... Now Biden’s promising your benefits to illegal immigrants."

It’s misleading to say that Biden for decades tried to cut Social Security and Medicare. His overall record is mixed. The ad also gives the wrong impression that Biden is trying to take benefits away from Americans and grant them to immigrants illegally in the country. That’s not Biden’s plan.

Biden wants to allow immigrants illegally in the country to buy health insurance, without subsidies. That would not take away Ameicans ability to buy their own insurance.

We rate the ad’s claims Mostly False.

This fact check is available at IFCN’s 2020 US Elections FactChat #Chatbot on WhatsApp. Click here, for more.

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Trump ad distorts Biden’s record on Social Security and Medicare, policy for immigrants

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