McCain Gets a Third-Rail Shock

John McCain said the way Social Security is set up hurts young workers.
John McCain said the way Social Security is set up hurts young workers. (Carolyn Kaster - AP)
Thursday, July 10, 2008


McCain Gets a Third-Rail Shock

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) once said economics was not his strong suit -- and yesterday Social Security became a problem for the presumptive Republican nominee as well.

In remarks at a town hall meeting in Denver on Monday, McCain laid out what he likes to call "a little straight talk."

"Americans have got to understand that we are paying present-day retirees with the taxes paid by young workers in America today. And that's a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace, and it's got to be fixed," he said.

Reaction to McCain's statement was slow to build, but fiery when at last it came yesterday.

"What I don't understand is why reporters don't ask: If Senator McCain doesn't want payroll taxes to fund Social Security (as has long been the case), then how does he propose to pay for it?" Reed Hundt, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and a supporter of Barack Obama, said on the Talking Points Memo blog. And the Democratic National Committee convened a conference call with a union leader and liberal economist to blast McCain's comments.

McCain sought to clarify his remarks yesterday afternoon on the Straight Talk Express. Young people, he said, "are paying so much that they are paying into a system that they won't receive benefits from on its present track that it's on -- that's the point."

The Social Security trustees "have clearly stated it's going to go bankrupt," he said, adding that this is what he meant when he called the system a disgrace. "I don't think that's right," he said. "I don't think it's fair, and I think it's terrible to ask people to pay in to a system that they won't receive benefits from. That's why we have to fix it."

-- Jonathan Weisman and Michael D. Shear


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company