Social Security has become a predictable talking point for Democrats heading into the midterms, but some Republicans have also been surprisingly eager to engage on the hot topic.
While many GOP leaders have tried to stay mum on the so-called “third rail of American politics,” other Republican figures have chimed in.
The latest example came this week from Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), who is touting himself as the top Republican on the House Budget Committee next year. In an interview with Punchbowl Newshe discussed Social Security reform and opened the door to the possibility of future benefit cuts.
“I’m not suggesting that anyone on Social Security right now has their benefits reduced,” he told the outlet. But for future retirees, he added, “there are ways to approach [the looming insolvency of the program] and make it sustainable.
The willingness of Republicans like him to engage on the issue is notable because of the popularity of rights agendas — which primarily benefit older citizens, a crucial voting bloc for both parties.
Blake Masters, who is in a tight Senate race in Arizona, even floated the idea of privatizing Social Security at a forum in June before returning to these comments.
Senate Republican campaign chairman Rick Scott (R-FL) also published a plan in February which included a requirement for Congress to review “all federal legislation” — including Social Security and Medicare — every five years. Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) went further and suggested that refunding programs should take place every year.
The House Republicans’ ‘Pledge to America’ rollout last week included a vow to ‘save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare’ without providing further information on how they could address the issue.
“You have contributed to social security”
The sanctity of Social Security has been a growing theme among Democrats in recent years. Bernie Sanders campaigned on increasing benefits when he ran for president in 2020. Biden echoed some of the Vermont senator’s language, marking a shift from the previous openness to “freezing” the program.
The reality is that lawmakers will have tough choices to make on both Social Security and Medicare in the years to come, no matter what they say on the campaign trail this year. Reserve funds for both programs face long-term shortfalls that, without action, could lead to reduced benefits beginning in 2028 for Medicare and 2034 for Social Security.
Democrats have argued in recent years that programs should get more money, not less, even attacking GOP suggestions that cuts might be needed.
On Tuesday, influential senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a symposium on Social Security in the Senateresponding to what they called the GOP “trying to end the program.”
That same day, President Biden made sure to bring up Social Security during a speech focused on health care costs and Medicare in the Rose Garden of the White House.
“You’ve paid into Social Security since that first job as a teenager,” Biden said, calling the senses. Scott and Johnson by name. “I will protect these programs, I will strengthen them.”
Democratic Social Security ads airing in the United States accompanied the messages from Washington. In one example, a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Announcement points to comments from Blake Masters in Arizona, saying he “wants to play it on the stock market.”
And it might work, at least in some cases. In Arizona, a poll last week found that 10% of likely voters over 50 cited “Social Security/Medicare” as the “personally most important” issue to them when voting in the Senate. Yet rights trailed immigration (16%), inflation (14%) and abortion (12%).
Ben Werschkul is a Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.
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