Inquiring seniors in Florida (and Pennsylvania) should want to know… WITH UPDATES**
Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling caused a splash when he talked up the idea of privatiing Social Security during an appearance on Hardball this week. But don’t look for the GOP, which is busy pretending to support and defend Medicare, to back him up anytime soon (at least not in public). Still, key parts of the GOP base DO want to rid the country of this meddlesome safety net for old people, and at one time, the Republican President (George W. Bush … remember him???) wanted to do so, too, putting hundreds of millions of Americans’ retirement security in the hands of Wall Street, who would gain blockbuster profits, and presumably, no risk to them, since any major crash in incomes resulting from their bad bets would have triggered a massive bailout. Of course, there would be plenty of risk for you. BTW, you know who else was for turning the federal government into The Gambler? Our very own, super-bland would be governor, Bill McCollu…zzzzzzzz… sorry, McCollum … something his opponent Alex Sink’s campaign manager is only too happy to point out:
“If Congressman Bill McCollum had had his way, the most recent stock market plunge would have jeopardized the Social Security and Medicare of millions of Americans. Does Bill McCollum still want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, tying them to the ups and downs of the market place?” campaign manager, Paul Dunn asked (via press release).
The Sink campaign points to a November 1998 Orlando Sentinel story in which McCollum defended his views on privatizing the New Deal-era program:
“Congress must tackle Social Security reforms in the near future to ensure the health of the trust funds,” said McCollum in 1998 in response to the Orlando Sentinel’s Voter Guide. “While I am not tied to one specific proposal, I am inclined to favor a plan permitting some investment of Social Security taxes in the stock market, increasing the retirement age in light of increased life expectancy and productive years, and phasing out benefits for high-income retirees who already have received all they have paid into the system plus interest. I would not support proposals to raise Social Security Taxes or deny benefits to those who have paid into the system.
And we all know how well the stock market thing has worked out for average Americans… McCollum is also on record favoring the privatization of Medicare, and voted for a bill to replace the program with a private insurance “guarantee” with prescription drug coverage, a vote that some believe cost him the 2000 Senate race (his 423rd run for office. ahem…) And he has a long record of supporting deep cuts to the program, and of supporting bills favored by insurance companies. You probably haven’t heard much about that though, because frankly, Mr. McCollum really isn’t that exciting to write about. Unfortunately for Democrats, he’s using his extreme dullness to his advantage.
And lest you think privatization is dead, in the wake of the Great Recession and rampant distrust of Wall Street, think again. Rep. Paul Ryan, a star of the newfangled GOP, is pushing a radical alternative budget filled with change ideas Ezra Klein describes as “violent“:
Medicare is privatized. Seniors get a voucher to buy private insurance, and the voucher’s growth is far slower than the expected growth of health-care costs. Medicaid is also privatized. The employer tax exclusion is fully eliminated, replaced by a tax credit that grows more slowly than medical costs. And beyond health care, Social Security gets guaranteed, private accounts that CBO says will actually cost more than the present arrangement, further underscoring how ancillary the program is to our budget problem.
Ryan is by no means alone. The Club for Growth is still pushing Social Security (and presumably Medicare) privatization, which brings me to the question I just emailed Marco Rubio’s campaign — I’d love to know his views, given that he’s running to be the Senator of the oldest state in the union, backed in strong measure by … the Club for Growth. Let’s see if he responds. By the way, Pat Toomey, the Republican Senate candidate from Pennsylvania, is the former head of the Club for Growth (replace by Chris “Count” Chocola.) Shouldn’t he also be asked about his views on privatizing Social Security, given that he’s running to be the Senator from the second oldest state in the union?
UPDATE: A spokesman for the Rubio campaign says the candidate “supports giving people the option of investing a portion of their Social Security in personal retirement accounts,” which essentially is the Bush proposal.
BTW, McCollum wasn’t just some bystander on the Social Security privatization front. He was practically a spokesperson. Here he is on CNN’s late, not so great show “Crossfire,” debating the issue, not way back in 1998 or 2000, but much more recently – in 2005.
More McCollum on the issues here.