Rick Perry’s Social Security Stance is Dangerously Ignorant

In a recent GOP presidential debate, Rick Perry reaffirmed his belief that Social Security is a “monstrous lie,” and a “Ponzi Scheme.”

This is nothing new.  Rick Perry has been attacking Social Security for years.

Perry's attacks on Social Security ignore the facts and defend failed George Bush policies that Congress and voters have already rejected.  Perry’s solutions to “fix” Social Security through decentralization and privatization would put retirement funds in the hands of the same bankers who collapsed the housing market, the stock market, and their own institutions.

Let’s take a look at some of the conservative talking-points on Social Security and see how they compare to the facts.

“Social Security adds to the national debt”

Actually, social security functions independently of the national debt.  Social Security doesn’t borrow or go into debt; its revenues are contributed solely by the contributions of employers and workers.  The real additions to the national debt are due to Conservative blunders: the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: Key Facts about Social Security

“Social Security is running dry”

Social Security currently has a surplus of $2.7 trillion which will grow to $3.7 trillion in the next 11 years.  Social Security will have a $69.7 billion surplus this year, with revenues of $807.7 billion and outlays of $738.4 billion.  Social Security can pay its benefits in full through 2035, and will be able to pay 77% of its benefits in full until 2085, when the number will drop to 74%.  By gradually raising the payroll tax just 2% over the next twenty years we can guarantee Social Security for the next 75 years.

Source: Key Facts about Social Security

“Privatizing Social Security would benefit Americans”

As stated previously, privatizing social security would place our retirement funds in the stock market and trust the same bankers who collapsed the housing market, the stock market, and their own institutions.  They would move our money around and generate billions for themselves while unnecessarily putting workers’ futures at risk.

History has shown that privatization of Social Security does not work.  In 2005 Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) released a report looking at a 1981 experiment on Social Security privatization.

In 1981, three Texas counties “decided to opt out of Social Security and instead to provide their public employees with a system of privatized accounts.” The analysis done by [Senator Barbara] Boxer’s office and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service “compares two sets of families in three different income brackets [and] shows what happens to their retirement in 2005 under Social Security and under the Texas plan.” The conclusion: By examining the actual system in place in Texas, this study shows that Americans are worse off with privatized accounts — not in theory, but in reality.

Source: Think Progress


“Social Security should be managed by the states”

This is a favorite line of Rick Perry that is both economically impossible and would easily bankrupt the entire Social Security system.  Allowing states to opt out or individually manage social security would cause a host of problems for American workers. 

According to Ian Millhiser of Think Progress:

States like Florida, which attract an unusually large number of retirees, would simply collapse under the weight of their retirement programs.  Florida would be forced to jack up taxes on its own workers to pay for the influx of retirees, but these higher taxes would drive workers out of the state, forcing Florida to jack up taxes even more.  Eventually, this “death spiral” would lead Florida to insolvency, leaving its senior residents without any benefits whatsoever.

Source: Think Progress

Social Security is an institution that 157 million Americans pay into and 90% believe is good for our country.  It provides the bulk, if not all of retirement funding to many seniors in our nation. 

Conservatives tried to cut over $6 trillion from Social Security this year alone.  Their reckless ideas for managing America’s safety net are ignorant and oblivious to the facts.  Through decentralization and privatization of Social Security they would effectively eliminate a well-kept and highly valued promise to hard working Americans and cut the twines of the safety net we fought so hard to create for ourselves and our children.