Social Security: Ponzi scheme or political football?
Social Security debate reignited with Rick Perry's critique of Social Security as a Ponzi scheme.
Social Security, which Republican front-runner Rick Perry has assailed as a "Ponzi scheme," has quickly emerged as a centerpiece issue in the battle for the GOP nomination, sparking a renewed debate over the so-called third rail of American politics.Skip to next paragraph
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Former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts has seized on the Texas governor's remarks in his bid to reclaim the lead in the Republican nomination race, saying Perry's assault on one of the revered legacies of the New Deal would imperil Republican efforts to defeat President Barack Obama.
The Perry campaign fired back Thursday, accusing Romney of inconsistencies on Social Security and saying that Perry is committed to repairing the 76-year-old retirement program.
"Governor Perry believes that Social Security for current beneficiaries, and those nearing retirement, can and must be protected," Ray Sullivan, the governor's campaign spokesman, said in a press release that seemed to soften Perry's stance. "Additionally, citizens of all ages, experts and elected officials must seriously discuss reforms to Social Security to make it financially sound and sustainable for the long haul."
The political uproar reflects continued concerns about the program's cloudy financial future at a time when millions of aging baby boomers are beginning to count on monthly Social Security checks for their retirement. Obama's blue-ribbon deficit reduction commission warned that "immense demographic changes will bring theSocial Security program to its knees" unless Washington enacts reforms to sustain it.
Perry first assailed Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" in his book, "Fed Up." He stood behind his remarks in Wednesday's Republican debate in California.
"It's a Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you're paying into a program that's going to be there," Perry said in his first national debate since becoming a presidential candidate in mid-August.
"Anybody that's for the status quo with Social Security today is involved with a monstrous lie to our kids, and it's not right."
Romney, who had been the Republican front-runner before Perry surged past him in the polls, defendedSocial Security and immediately served notice that he plans to use the issue to challenge Perry. "Our nominee has to be someone who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to savingSocial Security," Romney said in response to Perry's remarks.
Democrats, who have made preserving Social Security one of their fundamental tenets, hammered both Perry and Romney and vowed to resist any effort to dismantle the program. National Democratic Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, said Perry's remarks were "over the top."
Created in 1935, Social Security has long been considered virtually untouchable in the political arena, as evidenced by unsuccessful efforts by former President George W. Bush and others to try to create a private option to the benefits program. With more than 50 million Americans now drawing benefits, Social Security is the biggest government program in the world, accounting for the single largest expenditure in the federal budget.