McCain Collects Social Security

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., pumps his fist with excitement after the announcement of his strong majority showing in the California Presidential Primary at his election night command post in Phoenix, Ariz., Tuesday night, Feb. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)AP’s David Lieb has unearthed a major scandal:  John McCain, who paid into the Social Security system for decades, is collecting benefits even though he thinks it’s a bad system.

Although Republican presidential candidate John McCain has called Social Security “a disgrace,” he still cashes his own retirement check every month.

“I’m receiving the benefits, the system is broken and, unfortunately, my children and grandchildren, according to the trustees of the Social Security system, will not have the same benefits the present retirees have,” McCain told reporters Thursday on his campaign bus.

McCain’s 2007 tax return shows Social Security benefits of $23,157 for the year, an average of $1,929.75 a month. He said he started receiving the payments “whenever I was eligible.”

This bit is amusing, too:

People are not required to take Social Security payments, according to B.J. Jarrett, a spokesman with the Social Security Administration. “An individual does have the right to refuse his/her Social Security retirement benefit. However, Social Security is an entitlement program and an individual would essentially be forfeiting a benefit based upon contributions during his/her working lifetime,” Jarrett said.

I bet further digging would reveal that, although McCain opposes earmarks in principle, he nonetheless takes them for Arizona.  Further, while he decries the influence of money in politics, he nonetheless accepts campaign contributions.   AllahPundit is similarly unimpressed with the scandal, musing, “I wonder how many left-wing papers ran this story today alongside paid ads placed by the sort of multinational corporations they claim to loathe.”

What’s more, so far as I’m aware, McCain doesn’t oppose Social Security at all.  He merely thinks the current funding system is broken.  Which, by the way, pretty much everyone else does, too.  Worse yet, he wants to, um, fix it.

Indeed, this story is so obviously stupid that the only rationale I can think for it going out on the AP wire is as a backdoor way of mentioning, once again, that John McCain is old.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. The Other Ed says:

    Well, to give it a little more context, John McCain is a Federal Triple Dipper. He collects:

    Social Security
    Military Pension
    Senate Salary

    All while living off his wife’s $100 Million+ fortune.

    Gee, that John McCain is such an “authentic” guy! He lives just like all the rest of us!

  2. rodney dill says:

    I wonder when the blurb will appear on Obama’s website that he is not taking any Social Security benefits.

  3. just me says:

    I think this must be a slow newsweek if this is the meme for the day.

    Social Security
    Military Pension
    Senate Salary

    McCain paid into the social security system.
    McCain served in the military and earned his pension.
    McCain is a senator.

    IE he has earned the money he collects, or are you proposing to means test social security, the military pension/disability system and US senate salaries.

    Has Obama waived his senate salary?

  4. The Other Ed says:

    No, Obama has not waived his Senate salary.

    But then he’s not whining that it’s a disgrace and unfair to future generations while still cashing the checks either.

  5. Homer says:

    Why is it hypocritical to cash a check to get his own money back? If he didn’t pay into the system and collects, then say something.

  6. yetanotherjohn says:

    Let me get this straight. McCain thinks that there are problems with SSI and it needs reform. At the same time he holds these views, he is collecting a check from SSI.

    What about liberals who think the government isn’t taxing enough and at the same time aren’t sending extra money into the government?

    Does the left even bother to think about the attacks they make?

  7. ck says:

    McCain doesn’t oppose Social Security at all. He merely thinks the current funding system is broken.

    I don’t understand this pair of sentences. The “current” funding system is the only one that has ever existed. Indeed, Social Security is its funding system – there isn’t anything to the program other than that.

  8. kalthalior says:

    While I can’t verify the truth of the statement, it has been reported that McCain has never requested an earmark for Arizona as a US Senator. Not sure if the same claim is made for his time in the House. I do see where the DNC is making the dubious claim that foreign aid (in this case to Israel) is an earmark.

  9. Triumph says:

    What’s more, so far as I’m aware, McCain doesn’t oppose Social Security at all. He merely thinks the current funding system is broken.

    I admit that it is often difficult to understand McCain’s position on things since he is not the clearest thinker in the world, but he has said on multiple occasions that he thinks social security is “unfair” and a “disgrace” because entitlements are paid from receipts generated by current earners.

    As CK said, the system of paying out entitlements using current receipts has been the basis of the program since its inception.

    When McCain calls this structure of financing a “disgrace” or “unfair” he is not questioning how to make the financing work–he is saying that he opposes underlying system itself.

    There is really no other conclusion that one can make than he opposes social security.

    I agree that the criticism of his cashing his social security checks is lame–but McCain’s position is pretty clear: he opposes Social Security.

  10. Johnnie says:

    Sounds like we have to means test Social Security or privitize it.

  11. Anon says:

    I agree that this is stupid. At the same time, however, I’d like to point that it is very common, on all political sides, to call someone a hypocrite because they argue against some system XYZ while at the same time using system XYZ to their full advantage.

    I don’t consider this hypocrisy, no matter who is doing it.

  12. Jimmy D says:

    Yes, for the love of god, means test social security.

  13. c. wagener says:

    What about liberals who think the government isn’t taxing enough and at the same time aren’t sending extra money into the government?

    During the 2004 election cycle, Theresa was shown to have paid south of $2,000,000. Her net worth was estimated at $1,000,000,000. If she earned 6% on her money she paid a bit over 3% in tax. This is a bit unfair since a lot of the earnings would be unrealized capital gains, but 3%, while bitching that Bush was just for the rich?

    Another example is the pathetic charitable giving by the leading lights of liberalism. Kerry wrote off $92 in 1992. Who would even keep track of something that small? Gore, until recently gave similarly paltry sums. Compare their charitable giving to Bush and Cheney.

    One last thing. Why do so many of these champions of public school send their kids to private school?

    OK, that wasn’t the last thing. Why does Gore live in an energy sucking mansion and the hated George Bush live in a 4,000 sq. ft. house with active and passive solar systems, grey water treatment, etc. on a couple square miles of open land?

  14. DL says:

    If you’re going to “means test” social security, you ought to allow for people not paying into the system. Alas “fairness,” from either the left or the right, is not as big a motivator as “envy” now, is it?

  15. Jimmie says:

    I don’t get the problem here.

    He paid into the system. He’s getting back what he paid in. It’s his money.

    What he should be saying is that it’s a crime that the government took his money and stuck it in an account that barely makes as much of a return as a passbook savings account when there are quite literally thousands of better investments out there.
    If they’d let me, I’d take my money out of the system, too.

  16. Spoker says:

    Let’s see if I have this right.

    They force a man to pay into a system that he knows is a bad investment and gives a bad return on his money. They then attack him for being outspoken about how poor a job they do in managing his money they forced him to pay in. And finally, purely for political gain, when by using their rules, he takes his money out he is attacked because is doing a bad thing.

    It is no wonder the congress leads the way in negative ratings. The really sad thing is we keep sending these cheats, liars and thieves back to Congress so they can keep doing it to us. That really says lots about the electorate!

    If you wrote this in a book it would would be called fiction but in reality it is a horror story and we are all the victims.

  17. anjin-san says:

    Why is it hypocritical to cash a check to get his own money back?

    Because he is trying to prevent others from being able to do the same? Others who don’t get an allowance from their very rich wives…

  18. Bruce Moomaw says:

    Er, Homer and Jimmie. He’s not “getting back what he paid into the system.” If people were doing that, of course there would never be any problem funding SocSec in the first place. He’s getting back what OTHER people are currently paying into the system — specifically, present-day workers who are making a hell of a lot less money than he is. Which is why one of the major reforms recommended by large numbers of both liberals and conservatives to fix SocSec is to cut its payouts to the already well-off elderly — a policy that John McCain seems unwilling to apply to himself despite his yelling about the system’s “disgrace” and his own wife’s nine-digit fortune.

  19. NoZe says:

    I was under the impression that, to qualify for Social Security benefits, you had to be retired or only working part-time. McCain is clearly working full-time and his salary is well over $100,000 per year…how does he qualify for benefits?

  20. James Joyner says:

    I was under the impression that, to qualify for Social Security benefits, you had to be retired or only working part-time. McCain is clearly working full-time and his salary is well over $100,000 per year…how does he qualify for benefits?

    They changed the rules about ten years ago. Now, you can start collecting benefits at 62 or 65, depending on your risk calculations. My department head at Troy started collecting when they changed the rules.

    From SSA:

    If you work and are full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn. If you are younger than full retirement age, there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full Social Security benefits. If you are younger than full retirement age during all of 2008, we must deduct $1 from your benefits for each $2 you earned above $13,560.