Trying to Make Sense of the Social Security Issue

Posted by Jake Safane

Social Security has been one of many hot button issues during the Presidential debates. Texas Governor Rick Perry has called Social Security a monstrous lie, a ponzi scheme, and a failure. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has in the past supported Bush’s plans for partial-privatization of the system.

So is Perry hell bent on repealing Social Security and is Romney determined to let the private sector take over? Not quite.

While Perry made bold verbal attacks against the program, he’s actually not as radical as he initially wanted voters to believe (however convoluted that logic may be). In a recent op-ed in USA Today, Perry mellowed his tone, writing, “We must have a frank, honest national conversation about fixing Social Security to protect benefits for those at or near retirement while keeping faith with younger generations, who are being asked to pay.”

Romney has claimed that Perry doesn’t want Social Security to exist, but to be fair, Perry never said that. And now that Perry has toned down the rhetoric, Romney risks looking overly dramatic by continuing to cast Perry as a destroyer of Social Security.

That being said, The Texas Governor has somewhat publicly supported granting states the option to withdraw from the program and offer their own retirement packages.

Romney supported Former President George Bush’s privatization plan. In a town-hall style meeting in Florida Wednesday, he told the crowd he now supports a simpler system of either raising the retirement age or slowing the increase in benefits for high-income earners, which would keep Social Security solvent without much change. At the very least, Romney supports some degree of privatization, but in his 2010 book, No Apology, he explained that “given the volatility of investment values that we have just experienced, I would prefer that individual accounts were added to Social Security, not diverted from it, and that they were voluntary.”

To put it simply, at their most extremes, both candidates want to privatize Social Security. Perry wants to do it boldly, giving far more power to the states, while Romney wants to do it cautiously.

But based on their current words, Perry wants to have a conversation, and Romney wants to slightly adjust the benefits payouts without raising the cap on contributions from income over $106,800.

So while it’s not entirely clear how far either candidate is willing to go in changing Social Security, the over-the-top attacks have distracted voters from seeing who actually supports what.


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Posted by Jake Safane on Sep 23 2011. Filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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