The Choice Is Clear
What it means to have social security
by Hank Trout

I don’t mind admitting that I’m terrified this October.

No, I’m not talking about the fake, ginned-up terror of Halloween hobgoblins and Elsa-wannabes swarming our front door, trolling for candy. The lockdown will prevent them from saying, ‘Boo!’

I’m talking about the upcoming election, the most consequential election of my lifetime, the results of which will most certainly determine the quality of life for us long-term HIV/AIDS survivors for many years to come.

For nearly four years, we have suffered through the incompetence and cruelty of the most anti-LGBTQ+ president and vice president in history and their criminal cabal. The list of their malfeasances is far longer than I have space for in this column. Just skimming the surface of their anti-LGBTQ bigotry, we find: the administration arguing in court for the right of businesses, even physicians and EMTs, to refuse service to anyone they perceive as LGBTQ; arguing in court to kill the ACA and its protections for folks like us with myriad pre-existing conditions; undoing the protections for federal LGBTQ workers put in place by the Obama Administration; banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military; arguing in court for the right of shelter operators to refuse a bed to unhoused transgender people; cutting the U.S. contributions to PEPFAR and expanding implementation of the Mexico City Policy from the 1980s, barring life-saving PEPFAR funding to any organization that even talks about abortion; denying Visas to the same-sex spouses of foreign diplomats; cutting funding for HOPWA, which provides housing assistance to PLHIV; trying to discharge service members who are HIV-positive; denying citizenship to the children of same-sex couples born in a foreign country; and much more.

There is no legitimate justification for any of those actions. They stem solely from this president’s innate cruelty and bigotry.

Perhaps the most egregious, cruelest proposal this administration has made is the deferral of the payroll tax. The payroll tax is the one and only source of funding for Social Security. If you cut the payroll tax, you destroy Social Security by starving it of funding. It really is that simple: no payroll tax means no Social Security.

Considering that more than 55% of the people living with HIV in the U.S. are over the age of fifty, and that a huge percentage of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors rely on either SSDI or SSA payments as their only source of income, this can be seen only as a direct, cruel attack on us.

Now, I realize that the president is proposing a “deferment” of the payroll tax until the end of the year (when taxpayers will have to pony up). However, we know that the president’s party has had a hard-on for killing Social Security ever since it was first created. That’s not new. What is new is having a president who is equally eager to take steps to make sure Social Security is killed off if he is reelected. Even for an administration that will forever be infamous for its cruelty, this would be the cruelest cut.

I realize that many progressives and others of a more liberal bent are disappointed with the opposing party’s nominees. To be honest, neither Biden nor Harris was my first choice for presidential nominee. Actually, neither of them was even my fourth or fifth choice. And that doesn’t matter a damn. The differences between the two teams makes voting for Biden-Harris the only choice for escaping the cruelty and incompetence of the current administration.

The choice is clear.

We can vote for the team whose denial of science and best medical advice has led to the deaths of nearly 215,000 Americans and over 6-million COVID-19 infections, or we can vote for the team that believes real science should drive our healthcare system and policies.

We can vote for the team that has historically fought against every single LGBTQ+ protection ever proposed, or we can vote for the team that have been allies for decades.

We can vote for the team that wants to kill the ACA and leave people with pre-existing conditions adrift with no health insurance, or we can vote for the team that wants to strengthen and expand the ACA.

We can vote for the team that calls violent alt-right thugs “very fine people,” or we can vote for the team that recognizes far-right extremists as the violence-inciting terrorists they truly are.

We can vote for the team that has wanted to kill Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid ever since they were first implemented, or we can vote for the team that actually cares about the quality of seniors’ lives, including long-term survivors’ lives, and has fought to expand Social Security.

We can vote for four more years of blatant racism, misogynistic cruelty, hateful xenophobia, and deep-seeded homophobia and transphobia, or we can vote for Biden-Harris.

For this long-term survivor, there is no question. I’m voting to save my life—and yours.


Hank Trout, Senior Editor, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a forty-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his husband Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.