A major portion of the MSNBC/Politico Republican debate last night focused on where the Republican candidates stood on Social Security. The noise, of course, was started by Rick Perry who inaccurately called Social Security a Ponzi scheme in his book “Fed Up!”. When asked whether he stood by that statement during the debate, Perry amped up his rhetoric by labeling Social Security a “monstrous lie”. So what should we make of the wisdom of the Republican front runner deciding to run on an anti-Social Security platform?
(1) It’s idiotic because most of America disagrees with that stance
– Social Security is probably the most effective and popular government program of all time. A recent CNN/ORC International poll found that even with misinformation being spread about the looming decline of social security, “Nearly two-thirds say no to major changes to Social Security and Medicare.” If Republicans learned anything from the Healthcare debate of 2009, it should have been that scaring old people about the end of Social Security and Medicare is a winning strategy for gaining public support.
(2) Social Security is not a Ponzi Scheme
– According to data from the Social Security Administration, Social Security will begin taking in less taxes while paying out more benefits around 2016, but then money from a 2.4 trillion dollar trust fund will be used to offset the difference. Then,
After the trust fund is exhausted — which, according to projections, would happen in 2037 — Social Security would be able to pay out only about three-quarters of its promised benefits through 2083.
Therefore, any hype about there being an imminent crisis that demands a dramatic change to the structure of Social Security has more to do with a politicians ideological daydreaming than reality. For there to be any real immediate crisis about paying out Social Security benefits, the government would have to do something incredibly stupid, such as defaulting on our debt. (cough)
It is undoubtedly true that in its present form, Social Security will not last forever; but the Republican’s scaremongering rhetoric does little to help tackle this real problem. It’s surprising that when the economy is failing to rebound after a recession, the Republican front-runner would be the one who wants to do away with a program that makes life bearable for millions of older Americans.