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Past Comments On Social Security Could Pose Problems For Rick Perry

Karl Rove said on Good Morning America this morning that Rick Perry’s past statements on Social Security could pose problems for the GOP if he ends up being the nominee in 2012:

On “GMA” this morning, Karl Rove noted that new GOP frontrunner has many strengths, but Rick Perry’s thoughts on Social Security are not among them.

Perry’s campaign has not backed away from what Perry wrote in his book “Fed Up”  — that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme,” a “failure,” “something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now,” and one of many New Deal programs that have “never died, and like a bad disease, they have spread.”

But Rove pulled no punches today, calling that stance “inadequate.”

“They are going to have to find a way to deal with these things,” Rove said.

“They’re toxic in a general election environment and they are also toxic in a Republican primary.  And if you say Social Security is a failure and ought to be replaced by a state level program, then people are going to say ‘What do you mean by that?’ and make a judgment based on your answer to it,” he sai

Here’s the video:

As with anything Rove-related when it comes to Perry, it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s no love lost between Perry and Rove, especially after Rove worked for Kay Bailey Hutchinson in her challenge to Perry for the GOP Gubernatorial Nomination last year. Nonetheless, Rove has a point here, I think.

More than any other prominent candidate in the Republican race, Rick Perry has taken quite a stroll along the third rail of American politics. In his 2010 book Fed Up!, he called Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme,” a comment that his campaign later tried to back away from. Perry, however, would have none of that and has since repeated on the campaign trail his argument that the program is in fact a “Ponzi scheme,” and that it’s unconstitutional to boot. While he was on his book tour last year, he suggested that individual states be allowed to “secede” from Social Security. As I noted on Sunday, at the very least one has to admit that these are positions that are going to raise concerns among voters, especially given the fact that poll after poll shows strong support for Social Security as it exists and strong opposition to most of the radical changes that have been proposed over the years.

Jennifer Rubin argues that there is a way out of the quagmire for Perry, if he proposes something substantive:

Perry has a couple of options here. He can disclaim his prior suggestion to send Social Security to the states, but stick by his statement that Social Security is not sustainable. That would require presenting something more detailed than his campaign line that we should all have a “conversation” about Social Security. Another approach would be to stick with his call for a radical reworking or end to federal retirement benefits. That too would require a full plan and plenty of assurance that he’s not going to relegate grandma to eating cat food in her old age.

(…)

A Perry spokesman e-mails me: “We realize entitlement reform is a politically touchy subject, but it must be discussed if America is serious about fiscal responsibility and economic growth. At the rate they are going, many federal entitlement programs will be unsustainable, unaffordable and unavailable for future generations. Governor Perry would protect Social Security benefits for those at or near retirement and also recognizes we must discuss changes to make Social Security and other retirement benefits financially sound and viable going forward.”

That response sounds to me like little more than the lukewarm call for a conversation that we’ve been hearing for years, and I agree with Rubin that it’s not likely to be enough to answer the concerns of voters who are just now starting to learn that, only a year ago, Perry talked about drastically changing the most popular government program in the country.  Personally, I tend to be in the camp that says that drastic reform is necessary, but I’m not sure that’s politically possibly right now. Starting tonight, Rick Perry will likely find out.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    plenty of assurance that he’s not going to relegate grandma to eating cat food in her old age.

    But that is the goal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. Rob in CT says:

    So his mistake was admitting his beliefs?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. anjin-san says:

    As someone who has been paying into social security for 35 years, I love the both the idea of being cut loose AND the inference that I am a freeloader…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. EddieInCA says:

    I don’t think most Americans have any idea how radical Perry’s ideas are, as written in his book.

    The ads in a national election will write themselves. And they’ll use existing video footage of Perry in the Democratic ads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @EddieInCA: I understand that Perry’s book is out of print and being pulled from the shelves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. reid says:

    SS is a popular program that helps a lot of people. Clearly, it must be destroyed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. WR says:

    @Ron Beasley: Amazon doesn’t think so — you can get it in print, Kindle or Audio versions. Currently #269 in books.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. jan says:

    <

    As with anything Rove-related when it comes to Perry, it’s worth keeping in mind that there’s no love lost between Perry and Rove, especially after Rove worked for Kay Bailey Hutchinson in her challenge to Perry for the GOP Gubernatorial Nomination last year.

    I’m glad you brought this aspect up of the Rove/Perry relationship. But, as you said, Rove’s misgivings about Perry’s SS stances has merit.

    SS does continue to be a touchy, controversial subject for many, if not most, people. It has become such a ‘given’ in peoples’ lives, financial oxygen to their retirement plans, that to suggest it’s not sustainable, viable or even in some cases ‘fairly implemented’ is treasonous in some mind sets.

    Ironically when looking at the roots of SS, the idea originated in the European autocratic regime of Otto von Bismarck. A.J.P. Taylor, Bismark’s biographer, quoted him as saying, “Whoever has a pension for his old age is far more content and easier to handle than one who has no such prospect.” And in a way, that is how this entitlement program has been political played for many years — to either allay or raise fears, all depending on who it politically benefits.

    It is no different now, in that any talk of changing it, reforming it so that it will extend into the ages for more people, is immediately rebuked, defensively defended by those who shriek that they have paid into it for years, and rightfully deserve it. While there is truth in this statement, Perry’s statement about it being a Ponzi scheme also is correct, and only demonstrates that “truth oftentimes hurts.”

    The Congressional Research Service estimated that for people retiring in 1960, the SS payments received exceeded their total tax payments in 1.1 years. In 1980 this time frame was 2.8 years, when they recovered what they had put into the system. Now, it is around 12.9 years, and by 2030 it is projected to be 18 years. So, the time is lengthening because less and less people are contributing to pay current retirees. In 1945, 42 taxpayers supported each SS recipient. By 2030 it is estimated taxpayers supporting a single SS recipient will have dropped to 1.5. SS is a troubled entitlement, no matter how vehemently people complain. And, without rectification, taxes will soar, benefits will have to be cut, or both will happen.

    Therefore, instead of attacking Perry, it might be more positively proactive to listen to what he has to say, as to his ideas about changing SS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  9. Tsar Nicholas says:

    It’s the stupidity, economy.

    Speaking of which, what’s ironic about Karl Rove’s hyperventilation on this issue is that his own man, Bush 43, back in 2004 specifically campaigned on a platform of reforming Social Security. Granted, Bush didn’t use the stark language of Perry, but that didn’t stop the shrill howls of “privatization” and “destroying Social Security” from the media/union/academe/Democrat cabal.

    Bush had little trouble winning reelection. In Florida, the nation’s oldest state, he won by a very large margin. Older voters apparently weren’t that concerned with the issue of Social Security. Maybe they were upset about that particular issue but more concerned with others. Maybe they were too senile to think straight. You never know.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. samwide says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Bush 43, back in 2004 specifically campaigned on a platform of reforming Social Security.

    Well, that was then, when we were all living in bubbleland, this is now. In the aftermath of the recent financial shitstorm, I’ve no doubt there are millions of Americans facing an frighteningly uncertain retirement future. These folks might not take too kindly the demise of Social Security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  11. ponce says:

    Well, that was then, when we were all living in bubbleland, this is now.

    Even back then, Bush was politically neutered once he suggested letting his cronies on Wall Street loot Social Security.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  12. anjin-san says:

    that to suggest it’s not sustainable, viable

    treasonous? Hardly. Uninformed dogmatic right wing babble? Sure.

    Reagan achieved Social Security reform without too much fuss. But then he was a leader, which is not something that can be said for the gnats that front for the tea party.

    Let’s drop the BS about the right wanting to “reform” SS & Medicare. They want to kill them. If you guys want to lie to each other, go rent a room and have at it. The pool of low information voters is limited, and you guys have already made tea party members of most of them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  13. A voice from another precinct says:

    I would like to propose a radical suggestion: Since Social Security is an income-transfer program (always was, always will be), lets treat it like one. On the employee side (to protect jobs and employers from unnecessary taxation) collect tax on all of an employee’s wage earnings instead of stopping at $106,000, or so, dollars. If we want to have progressiveness and juice spending, we can exempt the first $10 or 15,000 from taxation (giving the working poor the equivalent of a 7% pay increase in the process–a lot more than they’ll ever get from their employers until the next Henry Ford comes along).

    If you like, we can look at this not a radical, but in a sense of fairness: Why should Alex Rodriguez, for example pay Social Security tax on less than 0.1% of his income when the waitress who brings him a burger pays it on 100% of her wages? We need to stop letting the working rich get a free ride from this program!

    There, was that radical enough for you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. A voice from another precinct says:

    @anjin-san: “The pool of low information voters is limited, and you guys have already made tea party members of most of them. ”

    To steal a line from “The Breakfast Club:” “I wouldn’t count on that.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. simple says:

    Stupid is what stupid does. Does anyone believe that a new president is really going to change anything?

    Memo to America: Stop waiting for Democrats and Republicans to save you. It’s bad
    for your health and your future.

    “WAKE UP PEOPLE!”
    Read “Common Sense 3.1”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Gwen says:

    @jan: What is Perry’s plan to revamp social security. We always hear the politicians talk about change but they never give us their plan for change.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Pug says:

    @jan:

    Therefore, instead of attacking Perry, it might be more positively proactive to listen to what he has to say, as to his ideas about changing SS.

    Here’s what he has to day about changing SS: nothing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0