Republican Tea Party presidential candidate Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, told an overflow crowd in Ottumwa, Iowa Sunday that Social Security was a “monstrous lie.” He called it a “giant ponzi scheme” as reported in an article by Peggy Fikac in the Houston Chronicle.
Perry is the front runner for the Republican nomination for President and the likely opponent that Obama will face in the election next year. This election is shaping up as a referendum on social security, medicare, and government as we know it.
Perry believes Social Security is unconstitutional
This is not the first broadside attack on social security by Perry. Last November he wrote a book “Fed UP’ in which he said Social Security is a “crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” He went on writing Social Security is “by far the best example” of a program “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles.” He wrote Social Security was put in place, “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government,” implying it is unconstitutional.
He compared the program [Social Security] to a “bad disease” that has continued to spread. Instead of “a retirement system that is no longer set up like an illegal Ponzi scheme,” he wrote, he would prefer a system that “will allow individuals to own and control their own retirement.” called the program implied that the program was unconstitutional.
At first, his campaign handlers tried to walk back from Perry’s book released 10 months ago saying it did not reflect his current views. However, Perry continues to tell audiences at campaign appearances they should buy the book because it outlined his views on Social Security. His latest comment reaffirms the views set forth in the book. The candidate is a better source of the candidate’s true beliefs than his spin doctors.
Perry’s plan, at least for now, spares those on or near retirement
In order to avoid antagonizing voters on or near retirement, Perry tried to reassure “people who are drawing Social Security or near eligibility like me,” that he wasn’t proposing a change in the program. But he said there should be a national conversation about potential changes for others, including “raising the age of eligibility and establishing a threshold based on a person’s means,” according to the Chronicle article.
Apparently, social security is only unconstitutional when applied to young people, a demographic that does not vote in the high numbers retired persons do.
This tactic of exempting those on or near retirement was used by Paul Ryan in his attempt to eliminate Medicare last spring. However, seniors were outraged saying they did not want to see their children or grand children lose the Medicare benefits they have been paying taxes for since they started working.
Means testing for social security is not likely to be any more popular. Since everyone pays social security tax on their incomes up to $106,000, denying those of a certain means from collecting it will certainly be attacked as a redistribution of wealth. This certainly will not go over well with Perry’s Tea Party and wealthy oil executive base, but might please liberals, at least those who earn less than $106,000 a year.
So, as Perry draws applause and media attention from his attacks on social security, other Republicans are secretly nervous. A candidate at the top of the ticket attacking social security is not what Republican candidates for Congress, Governor, and other offices would prefer.
Democrats, however, especially Obama, probably see it as a gift. Senior citizens vote. Social Security has been a third rail in politics, and that is not likely to change next year especially when the population is uneasy about the future to begin with. Stay tuned.
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