Trump open to Social Security changes if elected: adviser

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Donald Trump would consider changes to Social Security and Medicare if he is elected U.S. president, a top adviser to the New York businessman said on Wednesday, signaling a shift from Trump’s earlier stance that he would not touch so-called entitlement programs.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the end of a campaign rally in Eugene, Oregon, U.S., May 6, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

Policy adviser Sam Clovis said at a Washington conference that Trump would be open to a bipartisan look at entitlement spending once he implemented his other policies, such as his tax plan.

“I think after the administration’s been in place, then we will start to take a look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare,” Clovis said at an event hosted by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The foundation is known for its attacks on deficit spending, and it supports revamping Social Security and Medicare.

“We’ll take a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way,” Clovis said, adding Trump was not proposing any entitlement changes now.

Trump, who became the likely Republican nominee for the Nov. 8 general election last week when his two remaining rivals dropped out, had said he wanted to leave those programs alone.

On the campaign trail in Wisconsin last month, he attacked Republicans who he said would cut Social Security benefits.

“It’s my absolute intention to leave Social Security the way it is,” Trump said during a Republican debate in March. “I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it.”

Clovis said Trump’s economic policies would spur growth, and he estimated a $4.5 trillion to $7 trillion surplus over 10 years. The conservative Tax Foundation has estimated Trump’s tax plan, which calls for simplifying the tax code and slashing corporate rates, would cut U.S. tax revenues by about $10 trillion.

Trump may retool that tax proposal to bring down the price tag, said Stephen Moore, a conservative economist with the Heritage Foundation. He said he and Larry Kudlow, who hosts a program on CNBC, have proposed changes to the tax plan.

“What we were working with the campaign a little bit on is how can we get that cost down, cut it by half or more, without disrupting the main growth elements of the plan,” Moore told Reuters.

Hope Hicks, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said the tax plan was not being re-written. Moore said Trump had not yet signed off on any proposed tweaks.

Reporting by Emily Stephenson; Editing by Tom Brown