Donald trump’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year appears to violate his campaign long promise not to touch Social Security benefits. He is definitely talking about touching the benefits, and the argument over whether he has abrogated his promise tells you a lot about why the program has devolved into a financial mess.

Trump's promise

Trump's campaign started with the promise, "I'm not going to cut (Social Security) at all; I'm going to bring money in, and we're going to save it." Even when questioned on his position, he never varied from that commitment over the course of his campaign.

Cuts Social Security disability

That commitment comes into question with the benefit cuts proposed in his budget for the coming year. His plan would reduce benefits paid by the program to disability beneficiaries by more than 70 billion. How does the Trump Administration reconcile the words from his campaign and the words in budget?

Essentially he keeps his promise through the alchemy of words. As Office Of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney explains, "If you ask 999 people out of a thousand, they'd tell you Disability is not part of Social Security." Essentially we misunderstood the meaning of Social Security.

Social Security is a battle of words over the meaning of words

I am not in a position to tell you whether these changes are wise or even necessary.

Those type of questions rarely arise for the issue because the discussion about the program isn't really about the its finances. Over time, the debate about Social Security is simply an argument about controlling the meaning of words. In this case, Team Trump want to revise the the meaning of the term "Social Security."

This isn't an isolated example.

Today some hope to "expand" the program, without actually providing a meaning for the concept. The word "expand" is part of the fluid lexicon of the debate that enables the listener to hear what he wants. In the case of Bernie Sanders proposal for example, people hear we are going to help the poor. The fact is that many of the poor are excluded entirely from his proposal ironically enough because they are too old to qualify for the changes.

Given the mechanics of the system, his proposal does almost the exact opposite of its stated goals.

Social Security crisis is forming and it isn't about words

The program's finances under current law mean that beneficiaries in the 12 to 17 year time frame are apt to experience reductions of benefits on the order of 20 to 30 percent. The longer we argue over the meaning of words the more certain that crisis becomes.