OMB Director Mulvaney: Entitlement reform still a possibility

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney says he has been talking to people inside the West Wing about the need for entitlement reform. In an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Mulvaney said he believes there is a way to stick to President Trump’s promise about not changing the deal made with retirees but still rework the programs so they will be around for future generations.

“As soon as the 2018 spending budget is done at the end of next week. I’m hoping to put together something for the President to look at on the other pieces of entitlement spending, or mandatory spending,” Mulvaney said. He continued, “Keep in mind, you see the AARP ad on television, which many of us have seen, and the speech he gives says he’s going to protect and save Social Security, protect and save Medicare. And that’s exactly what we are going to try and do.

“I’ve already started to socialize the discussion around here in the West Wing about how important the mandatory spending is to the drivers of our debt. I think people are starting to grab it. There are ways that we can not only allow the President to keep his promise, but to help him keep his promise by fixing some of these mandatory programs.”

Hewitt asked about some specific possibilities including raising the retirement age. Mulvaney replied, “I don’t think you’re going to see this President have any interest in raising the retirement age anytime soon.” He added, “So I know the national narrative, and the national narrative is we’re not going to do anything on mandatory spending. But I think really what this President is interested in doing is not affecting the benefits for folks, and saving these programs long term. And I think there’s a way to do that.”

A bit later Mulvaney circled back to the idea of changing the retirement age for future beneficiaries. “I’ve got three 17-year-olds. The President has grandchildren who are you know, under the age of 10,” he said. “Are they really going to grow up in a world where the average age expectancy is, say, 90, or even 100, that they’re going to work for 65 years and then you know, retire for 35? Does that make any sense?” he asked.

When Mulvaney refused to rule out the possibility of entitlement reform last month, I suggested he might be leaving a door open for changes to future beneficiaries. That was given a boost when House Speaker Paul Ryan said he believed President Trump was indeed open to such changes, so long as they didn’t violate his pledge during the campaign. Now it’s clear that Mulvaney is continuing to make the argument inside the White House that dealing with entitlement spending now is the best way to preserve those programs for the future.