MANCHESTER, N.H. – Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday stood firm on his proposal to overhaul the nation’s Social Security system, insisting voters are willing to make fixes to costly entitlement programs. “People know we have a problem and they want to deal with it,” he said.
Christie spoke to reporters after stopping by the Chez Vachon diner with his wife, Mary Pat, and chatting with patrons over breakfast. The New Jersey Republican, who is still eyeing a possible bid for the GOP presidential nomination, is spending several days this week in New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation primary state.
On Tuesday, Christie issued a provocative call to make changes to Social Security, the widely popular national retirement program for seniors. He proposed raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 and to subject Social Security benefits to means testing.
Christie reiterated his assertion that people like his friend Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire Facebook founder, should not receive Social Security benefits.
“You shouldn’t collect Social Security buddy. You know, you don’t need that monthly check,” Christie said he told Zuckerberg.
Asked if he would consider raising taxes to solve fiscal issues, Christie said “everything is on the table for conversation, but I don’t think that the problem in America is that we’re undertaxed.”
Christie went on to explain the growth of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, noting “you’re not going be able to raise taxes high enough to be able to fix those things. You have to reform the programs.”
“It doesn’t include increasing taxes, that’s not the way to fix this problem,” he said.
Inside the diner, Christie found at least one senior citizen who liked his social security plan. “I have to say, that speech yesterday was fantastic,” a woman named Claire Monier told him, adding she was a member of AARP. She invited him to a local Rotary Club meeting to further explain his plans.
Christie also took questions from diners about guns, student loans and the George Washington bridge scandal that has hovered over Christie since last year. Federal indictments related to the bridge case are expected soon.
“I was in that traffic jam, by the way, my anniversary,” one man joked.
Christie responded, “Were ya, oh really? How did it go? Not well, huh!”
Another man joked that when he heard Christie was coming to town, he made sure the bridges were going to stay open.
“I heard there were a lot of wise guys at this diner this morning,” Christie said to laughter. “So, good. Which direction is the bridge, I’ll go make sure.”
Christie was even asked about the final episode of The Sopranos, the hugely popular HBO show that was set in New Jersey.
“We want to know about Tony there, what happened in the last episode,” a man asked Christie.
“What happened to him? He didn’t tell me either,” Christie said. “The screen went black and nobody filled me in.”