Where Do the Candidates Stand on Social Security?

David Williams

February 29, 2016

This article appeared in Townhall.com on February 23, 2016

Many serious issues remain undebated as the national dialogue around the 2016 Presidential campaign focuses on silly distractions such as one candidate’s Canadian birth and another’s high-heeled boots. One such issue of critical importance that needs to be discussed is Social Security. No one should be more concerned about this vital issue than the next generation of retirees. According to an alarming report by the Social Security Board of Trustees, the program will begin to pay out more than it takes in by 2034.

For this reason, conservatives have argued for years that this valuable safety net program is in need of structural reform. Unfortunately, their calls for fiscal prudence have often been met with attacks from the left; attacks so effective the program remains on a collision course against demographic realities to this day. The situation is well known. Due to the Baby Boom generation reaching retirement age and living longer lives, we have more Americans receiving Social Security and fewer paying into the system. Without structural reforms future retirees could face automatic cuts to their benefits.

AARP, the nation’s largest lobbying outfit for older Americans and generally no friend to Republicans on such matters, has launched a campaign called “Take A Stand” designed to encourage dialogue and debate on Social Security reform. They catalogue whether a candidate has articulated a plan on Social Security and are remaining neutral on the content of these plans. The group has run television spots in early caucus and primary states and has recruited volunteers to question the candidates about their plans.

So where do the candidates stand?

According to AARP’s analysis, increasing the retirement age is the most popular reform measure supported by most of the current Republican candidates. In fact, Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), Gov. John Kasich and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) have all proposed raising the retirement age.

Means testing benefits (Kasich, Rubio) and establishing private accounts (Carson, Cruz) have been proposed by two Republican candidates.

Eliminating the payroll tax for working seniors (Rubio), adjusting the COLA (Cruz), abolishing the limit on retirement earnings (Rubio), and proposing to index benefits to prices (Kasich) are all supported by one candidate.

Overall Rubio has proposed the greatest number of reforms among the candidates still in the race, followed by Kasich and Cruz.

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