If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) hoped to start a broader discussion on entitlements, it worked. The Republican governor delivered a speech a week ago announcing his support for major “reforms” to social-insurance programs, including a call to raise the retirement age to 69.
Within a few days, many of his national GOP rivals were on board with roughly the same idea: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) are all now on record in support of raising the retirement age.
But in an interesting twist, some Republicans have been equally eager to take the opposite side. Take former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), for example:
“I don’t know why Republicans want to insult Americans by pretending they don’t understand what their Social Security program and Medicare program is,” Huckabee said in response to a question about Christie’s proposal to gradually raise the retirement age and implement a means test.Huckabee said his response to such proposals is “not just no, it’s you-know-what no.”
Even Donald Trump, who’s apparently flirting with the possibility of a campaign, rejected the idea during a Fox News interview yesterday. “They’re attacking Social Security – the Republicans – they’re attacking Medicare and Medicaid, but they’re not saying how to make the country rich again,” the television personality said. He added, in reference to GOP plans, “Even Tea Party people don’t like it.”
And then, of course, there’s the likely Democratic nominee these Republicans hope to take on next year.
Alex Seitz-Wald reported yesterday on Hillary Clinton’s campaign swing through New Hampshire, where she gladly chided Republicans over Social Security.
She chastised Republicans – though not by name – as “just wrong” for wanting to change the retirement program. “What do we do to make sure it is there? We don’t mess with it, and we do not pretend that it is a luxury – because it is not a luxury. It is a necessity for the majority of people who draw from Social Security,” she said. […]“[M]y only question to everybody who thinks we can privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way – and what is going to happen to all these people, like you, who worked 27 years at this other company? What’s going to happen? It’s just wrong.”
Clinton has not yet said whether she’s prepared to expand Social Security benefits – a key progressive priority – but it’s nevertheless clear that when it comes to seniors’ social-insurance programs, the battle lines are taking shape.
“I think there will be some big political arguments about Social Security,” Clinton said yesterday. I think she’s right.