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Weiss: Social Security Gets Attention as Candidates Share Plans for Shoring Up System’s Solvency

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

 

Last Thursday, the four surviving G0P contenders for president at the CNN Republican debate at the Bank United Center on the campus of the University of Miami, focused on meaty policy issues and not theatrics. Previous debates were heated and sparks flew between candidates. But many political wonks consider this one to be subdued, may be even a little boring.  Like the other 11 debates, on March 10 Ohio Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Businessman Donald Trump and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, gave their two cents on scores of policy issues including, the right to bear arms, trade, jobs, illegal immigrants, education, national security, fighting ISIS, Iran’s nuclear deal and protecting Israel.  But one political hot potato issue, Social Security, even got a little more air time during this debate.  

With Florida having the highest percentage of retirees in the country, with nearly 3.1 million residents receiving a Social Security check, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, brought Social Security into the debate by asking the candidates how they would keep the nation’s retirement program afloat for future generations.

Bash called on Rubio to explain his position on rising the retirement age and reducing benefits for wealthy retirees. The Florida Senator said he would not cut Social Security checks, joking that “I’m against any changes to Social Security that are bad for my mother, a Social Security recipient.” 
 
Younger Generations Take Brunt of GOP Fix for Social Security
 
Rubio warned that Social Security will ultimately go bankrupt taking the country down with it. So, here’s his fix. “So what it will require is people younger, like myself, people that are 30 years away from retirement, to accept that our Social Security is going to work differently than it did for my parents,” he noted.
 
The 44- year-old Florida Senator, called for increasing the retirement age of younger persons to age 68 ultimately to age 70, suggesting that Social Security checks should not “grow as fast as someone who made less money.”

“Medicare could very well become the option of using my Medicare benefit to buy a private plan that I like better. Medicare Advantage does that now,” said Rubio.

Explaining what he favors making changes to Social Security, Rubio noted that “in less than five years, only 17 percent of our budget will remain discretionary; 83 percent of the federal budget in less than five years will all be spent on Medicare, Medicaid, the interest on the debt.”

CNN moderator Bash called on Trump to explain why he did not want to raise the Social Security retirement age and his rationale for not wanting to cut benefits to wealthy retirees.
 
Trump responded by saying that his democratic opponents oppose cutting the retirement program, evening wanting to give recipients “even more.”  The businessman, becoming more of a politician, clearly sees how the heated political issue, of making changes to Social Security, will bring votes to the Democrats.  ”And that's what we're up against. And whether we like it or not, that is what we're up against,” he says.

 “I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security [either making benefit cuts or rising the eligibility age”. Trump believes the solution is “to make this country rich again; to bring back our jobs; to get rid of deficits; to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse, which is rampant in this country.”  He notes that catching improper retirement payments will also increase the solvency of the program.

Time Can Allow a Fix for Social Security Program

In response to those warning about the impending bankruptcy of the Social Security program if changes are not made, Trump says he would have a “a long-time to go,”  possibly over 20 years, to increase the solvency of the program.   It seems that he does believes that time will be on his side to fix Social Security, if he becomes president.

“The numbers don’t add up,” charges Rubio, to Trump’s assertion that reducing fraud and waste and in Social Security, the nation’s foreign aid programs and better purchasing policies.  He chides both the Democrats and GOP for taking too long to “deal with” the solvency of Social Security.

With the spotlight on Cruz, the Texas Senator explained his advocacy for allowing younger workers to put some of their Social Security taxes into a 401 (k) accounts even with the

As president, Cruz pledges that he will not make any changes to Social Security that will impact anyone at or near retirement. “Every benefit will be protected to the letter,” he says, “But for younger workers, we need to change the rate of growth of benefits so it matches inflation instead of exceeding inflation.”

Finally, CNN moderator Bash, reminded Kasich of his position of cutting retirement payments.   The Ohio Governor told a New Hampshire voter: “Get over cuts to Social Security benefits,” he says.

Kasich brought up his 1999 plan to save Social Security by allowing young people to have private retirement accounts.  During a light hearted moment, Kasich quipped this memorable quote:  “Now there are more 18-year-olds who believe they have a better chance of seeing a UFO than a Social Security check and we have a lot of seniors who are very nervous.”

 Kasich’s plan to save Social Security is quite simple.  “If you've had wealth throughout your lifetime, when the time comes to be on Social Security, you'll still get it. It will just simply be less. And for those people who depend on that Social Security, they'll get their full benefit. That's the way it will work. And we don't have to monkey around with the retirement age. And how do I know that? I've done all this before,” he told millions watching the two hour debate.

The writing is on the wall.  2016 GOP candidates for president, except Trump, look to make changes to Social Security to ratchet up the program’s solvency.  Those calling for change say they won’t increase program eligibility, cut benefits or privatize the program, to impact aging baby boomers nearing retirement or for current Social Security recipients.

While differing on their political strategies, Democratic presidential contenders -- former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders, -- seek to strengthen and expand Social Security.

Generation’s X, Y and Z might will consider looking closely at Democratic and Republican presidential candidate positions on fixing Social Security.  November’s winner might just tinker with your future retirement program or slash benefits, ultimately impacting how you will financially survive in your retirement years.
 

 

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