Mitt Romney on Social Security

Former Republican Governor (MA); presidential nominee-apparent


Bipartisan effort with Mitt Romney to shore up entitlements

Two Utah politicians, Sen. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ben McAdams, are part of a bipartisan effort to keep Social Security and Medicare from running out of money. McAdams said millions of people depend on the benefits they've earned through a lifetime of hard work. "We owe it to them and to future generations to carefully consider the options that will protect and strengthen these vital programs. Republicans and Democrats must keep the promises we've made about aging with dignity in our country," he said.

"It's irresponsible for Congress to keep ignoring a preventable crisis," Romney said. "We must put in place a responsible process now to prevent dramatic cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare or be forced to enact massive tax hikes down the road, both of which would be devastating to middle class Americans."

Source: KSL Salt Lake City on 2018 Utah Senate race , Oct 30, 2019

Version 2.0: Lower benefit rate for wealthy

Q: In your book, you wanted the press to ask how to fix Social Security and Medicare. Would you raise the retirement age for Social Security, raise the eligibility age for Medicare, or reduce benefits for seniors with higher incomes?

ROMNEY: For the people who are already retired or 55 years of age and older, nothing changes. With Social Security--if you will, the 2.0 version for the next generations coming up-- I'd lower the rate of inflation growth in the benefits received by higher-income recipients and keep the rate as it is now for lower income recipients. And I'd also add a year or two to the retirement age under Social Security. With regards to Medicare, again, for higher-income recipients, lower benefit, a premium support program which allows people to buy either current standard Medicare or a private plan.

Source: Fox News debate on MLK Day in Myrtle Beach, SC , Jan 16, 2012

1-year payroll tax cut is a band-aid; make permanent changes

Q: If the payroll tax cut is not extended, that would mean a tax increase for all Americans.

A: No one likes to see tax increases, but the right course for America is not to keep spending money on stimulus bills, but instead to make permanent changes t the tax code. If you give a temporary change to the payroll tax and you say, "we're going to extend this for a year or two," employers don't hire people for a year or two. They make an investment in a person that goes over a long period of time. If you want to get this economy going again, you have to have people who understand how employers think, what it takes to create jobs. It takes more than just a temporary shift in a tax stimulus. It needs instead fundamental restructuring of our economy to make sure that we are the most attractive place in the world for investment.

Q: So you would be OK with seeing the payroll tax cuts gone?

A: I don't like little Band-Aids. I want to fundamentally restructure America's foundation economically.

Source: 2011 GOP debate at Dartmouth College, NH , Oct 11, 2011

System is federal responsibility, not state governments

Q: [To Perry]: Gov. Romney has been hammering you on your idea of turning Social Security back to the states, repeatedly.

PERRY: It's not the first time that Mitt has been wrong. In Massachusetts, Romney's home state, almost 96% of the state people ar off of the Social Security program.

ROMNEY: Well, it's different than what the governor put in his book just six months ago. There's a Rick Perry out there that is saying that the federal government shouldn't be in the pension business, that it's unconstitutional, and it should be returned to the states. Now, my own view is, that we have to make it very, very clear that Social Security is a responsibility of the federal government, not the state governments, that we're going to have one plan, and we're going to make sure that it's fiscally sound and stable. And I'm absolutely committed to keeping Social Security working. I put in my book a plan for how we can do that and to make sure Social Security stable for the next 75 yearws.

Source: 2011 GOP Google debate in Orlando FL , Sep 22, 2011

Congress taking money from Trust Fund is criminal

PERRY: You said that if people did [what Social Security does] in the private sector it would be called criminal. That's in your book.

ROMNEY: Governor Perry, you've got to quote me correctly. You said it's criminal [as a Ponzi scheme]. What I said was congress taking money out of the Social Security trust fund is like criminal and that is and it's wrong.

Source: 2011 GOP Tea Party debate in Tampa FL , Sep 12, 2011

Keep Social Security as an essential federal program

Q: You said that Governor Perry's position on Social Security is "unacceptable and could even obliterate the Republican Party." Are you saying he could not, as Republican nominee, beat Barack Obama?

ROMNEY: No, what I'm saying is that [his use of] the term "Ponzi scheme" is over the top and unnecessary and frightful to many people. the view that somehow Social Security has been forced on us over the past 70 years that by any measure, again quoting his book, by any measure Social Security has been a failure, this is after 70 years of tens of millions of people relying on Social Security, that's a very different matter. the financing of Social Security, we've all talked about at great length. I put in my book a series of proposals on how to get it on sound financial footing so that our kids can count on it, not just our current seniors. I think that Social Security is an essential program and we should change the way we're funding it.

Source: 2011 GOP Tea Party debate in Tampa FL , Sep 12, 2011

Funding for Social Security is not working, but system works

Q: You acknowledge yourself that Social Security has funding problems.

ROMNEY: Well, the issue is not the funding of Social Security. We all agree that the funding program of Social Security is not working, and Congress has been raiding the dollars from Social Security to pay for annual government expenditures. That's wrong. The funding, however, is not the issue. [To Perry]: The issue in the book "Fed Up," Governor, is you say that by any measure, Social Security is a failure. You can't say that to tens of millions of Americans who live on Social Security and those who have lived on it. The governor says look, states ought to be able to opt out of Social Security. Our nominee has to be someone who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security, but who is committed to saving Social Security. Under no circumstances would I ever say by any measure it's a failure. It is working for millions of Americans, and I'll keep it working for millions of Americans. And we've got to do that as a party.

Source: 2011 GOP debate in Simi Valley CA at the Reagan Library , Sep 7, 2011

So-called "Trust Fund" has defrauded American people

A fiction that's often used to obscure the extent of the crisis is the so-called Social Security Trust Fund, which the American public is assured has a large positive balance. Yet it is not a fund in the conventional sense of the world. From the fund's inception, money collected from payroll taxes hasn't been "locked away," but rather has been used to pay benefits of current beneficiaries. There simply is no "fund" safely invested somewhere, and therefore entitlement programs will consume an ever larger share of our economic output. There is no fund, and there is no silver bullet.

To put it in a nutshell, the American people have been effectively defrauded out of their Social Security. In 1982, the government raised Social Security taxes with the intention of creating a surplus that could be set aside in some fashion for the baby boomers when they retired. But for the last thirty years, the surplus has been spent, not on retirement security, but on regular budget items.

Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.157 , Mar 2, 2010

Add individual retirement accounts as option

Individual retirement accounts offer an option that would allow today's wage earners to direct a portion of their Social Security tax to a private account rather than go entirely to pay the benefits of current retirees, as is the case today. The federal government would make up for its lost Social Security revenue by borrowing the amount through the sale of treasuries, just as it currently does for the rest of its deficits. Owners of these individual accounts would invest in a combination of stocks and bonds and--presuming these investments paid a higher rate of return than the new treasuries--the return on these investments would boost the payments to seniors. I also like the fact the individual retirement accounts would encourage more Americans to invest in the private sector that powers our economy.
Source: No Apology, by Mitt Romney, p.160 , Mar 2, 2010

Rein in the excessive growth in entitlement programs

The Bush revolution and the downturn that we faced when he came in office suggested that we needed a tax cut. There’s no question in my mind that Reagan would have said sign it and vote for it. McCain was one of two that did not. The justification at the time was because it represents a tax cut for the rich. I believe in getting rates down. That builds our economy. Right now, federal spending is about 60% for entitlements: Social security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s growing like crazy. It will be 70% entitlements, plus interest, by the time of the next president’s second term. Then the military is about 20% today. No one is talking about cutting the military, we ought to grow it. There’s not enough in the 20% to go after if we don’t go after the entitlement problem. We’re going to rein in the excessive growth in those areas. We’re not going to change the deal on seniors, but we’re going to have to change the deal for 20 and 30 and 40-year-olds, or we’re going to bankrupt our country.
Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley , Jan 30, 2008

Will try to fix Social Security without raising taxes

Q: Will you do for Social Security what Reagan did in 1983?

A: I’m not going to raise taxes. Not only are you taking money away from their pocketbooks, you’re also slowing down the economy. You slow down the economy, more people lose work. More people lose work, of course, you’re having a lot of folks that really have their lives turned upside down. So, raising taxes is just something you don’t want to do. We’re going to have to sit down with the Democrats and say, let’s have a compromise on these three elements that could get us to bring Social Security into economic balance. You can have personal accounts where people can invest in something that does better than government bonds--with some portion of their Social Security. We’re going to have the initial benefit calculations for wealthier Americans calculated based on the Consumer Price Index rather than the wage index. That saves almost two-thirds of the shortfall. You can change the retirement age. You can push it out a little bit.

Source: 2008 GOP debate in Boca Raton Florida , Jan 24, 2008

No FICA for workers over age 65, so they can stay working

Something I’m particularly fond of [in my economic stimulus package]: it says for anybody in the workforce 65 and older, neither the company nor the individual is going to have to pay Social Security payroll taxes -- FICA, if you will.

And by virtue of that elimination, you’re going to have more people stay in the workforce. That’s going to help grow our economy. They’re not going to be paying any Social Security or Medicare taxes anymore, no more payroll taxes.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Jan 20, 2008

Favors private accounts; prepared to be entirely bold

Romney said he “was prepared to be entirely bold,” in taking on the politically perilous issue of entitlement spending, “but I’m not prepared to cut benefits for low-income Americans.” He said he favored private accounts and would consider tying Social Security benefits to prices rather than wages for higher income Americans. Romney said “effective leadership that brings people from both sides of the aisle together” could solve the problem of escalating costs for Medicare and Medicaid.
Source: Bloomberg News report on 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando , Oct 21, 2007

Private accounts work better than extending retirement age

I’m not prepared to cut benefits for low-income Americans. We’re going to make sure that we protect these programs for our seniors. Currently, we’re taking more money into Social Security that we actually send out. So our current seniors, their benefits are not going to change. For people 20 and 30 and 40 years old, we have four major options for Social Security.
  1. The one Democrats want: raise taxes. It’s the wrong way to go.
  2. The president said let’s have private accounts and take that surplus money that’s being gathered now in Social Security and put that into private accounts. That works.
  3. Other people said, well, extend the retirement age. That mathematically works. It’s not as attractive.
  4. And the last is to index the Social Security benefits, the first benefit, to something other than wages, which is what it has always been. But, in my view, that’s the wrong way to go, other than for higher-income Americans. Let’s consider indexing based on prices rather than wages.
Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida , Oct 21, 2007

Reform entitlements by negotiating behind closed doors

Romney says it’s time to reform the two major entitlement programs: Social Security and Medicare. “It’s really not possible for us to remain a superpower without restructuring our entitlements programs,” Romney says. Romney says leaders from both political parties will have to come up with a solution in private. “Sitting down, quietly, behind closed doors and having a full and complete discussion of various ways to bring the costs down and to keep it from getting out of control,” Romney says.
Source: Radio Iowa, “Romney: reform”, by O.Kay Henderson , Aug 25, 2006

Honor expectations of recipients, but take action for future

Romney says “statesmen” from both political parties should sit down and “say honestly: ‘What can we do?’” to fix Social Security. Romney says the solution should “make sure that we honor the expectations” of those who are already getting Social Security and those who are about to get regular Social Security checks from the government, while at the same time ensuring the system will be solvent when the 30- and 40-year-olds of today reach retirement age.
Source: Radio Iowa, “Romney: reform”, by O.Kay Henderson , Aug 25, 2006

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