The Romney campaign believes it has Rick Perry is on the ropes on Social Security. Smelling blood in the water, Romney workers are placing fliers under doors in Florida alleging that Perry “wants to kill Social Security.” The two candidates will no doubt clash over Social Security when they face off Monday night in Tampa and next week in Orlando.
Can Perry fight his way out of the corner he is in? Not if he puts in a repeat of his performance in the last debate. Romney is vulnerable on Social Security. But Perry needs to move beyond his indignant cries of “Ponzi scheme” and lay out specific ways to save Social Security. And instead of just defending his own rhetoric, he needs to go on the offense on the issue.
Marc A. Thiessen
A fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, Thiessen writes a weekly column for The Post.
President Obama has given Perry an opening to do just that. In his address to Congress last week, Obama proposed a 50 percent cut in the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Obama’s plan would extend and deepen the one-year cut he signed into law last year, reducing both employee and employer contributions from 6.2 to 3.1 percent through 2012. This would rob the Social Security trust fund of about $175 billion in financing next year (money Obama would replace with new debt). Obama’s proposal is generating opposition from conservatives on Capitol Hill. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) says “it is a horrible idea” to cut the amount of money Americans pay into Social Security at a time when the program is at risk of insolvency.
This creates an opportunity for Perry to go after Obama for gutting the Social Security trust fund — pointing out that last year, for the first time in three decades, Social Security spent more on benefits than it collected in payroll taxes, and that Obama’s actions are making the program even more financially unsound.
But Obama is not the only politician who announced last week that he wants to dip into Social Security’s coffers. In his newly released economic blueprint, Mitt Romney endorsed . . . a payroll tax cut. It would be fair for Perry to ask how Romney can claim that that he wants to “save” Social Security when his own economic plan would raid the Social Security trust fund?
Heated exchanges notwithstanding, the fact is that Romney and Perry both agree that Social Security is being run as a criminal enterprise. In his book, “No Apology,” Romney writes: “Suppose two grandparents created a trust fund, appointed a bank as trustee, and instructed the bank to invest the proceeds of the trust fund so as to provide for their grandchildren’s education.” (Yes, he really chose a “trust fund” as an example.) “Suppose further that the bank used the proceeds for its own purposes, so that when the grandchildren turned eighteen, there was no money for them to go to college. What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money? They would go to jail.” Yet this is precisely what his proposed payroll tax cut does. It takes money from the Social Security trust fund and uses it for other purposes (an economic stimulus).