Potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is reflected in a mirror as he departs after speaking to the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce in Salem, N.H. May 21, 2015. 
Photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

Jeb Bush’s line on Social Security draws scrutiny

Jeb Bush’s position on Social Security was already controversial. The Republican presidential hopeful, just two weeks ago, emphasized his support for raising the retirement age for Social Security eligibility – a broadly unpopular position. Making matters slightly worse, the former Florida governor was mistaken when talking about what he thinks is the current retirement age.
Yesterday, Bush’s position drew even more scrutiny, when the International Business Times published this video from American Bridge, recorded at an event in New Hampshire. In response to a question about Social Security, the GOP candidate told an audience:
“I appreciate the question because it relates to, not that Social Security is an entitlement – I’ve learned that from town hall meetings – it’s a supplemental retirement system that’s not actuarially sound, how about that.
“And certainly Medicaid and Medicare are entitlements and they’re growing at a far faster rate than anything else in government, so it will overwhelm us. The contingent liabilities are clear. We can ignore it as we’ve done now – my brother tried, got totally wiped out, both Republicans and Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The next president’s going to have to try again.”
The line is arguably open to some interpretation. Some Bush critics pounced, arguing that he effectively endorsed his brother’s failed privatization scheme.
A more charitable interpretation is that Bush supports some kind of “reforms” to the Social Security system. When he said the next president is “going to have to try” to change Social Security, he may not have been referring specifically to the other Bush plan.
Presumably, either candidate or his campaign team will clarify matters fairly soon. But if Team Jeb responds to questions by saying he wasn’t referring specifically to his brother’s gambit, that shouldn’t necessarily end the controversy.
On the contrary, Bush’s approach to Social Security is likely to be a very big deal for his campaign should he win the Republican nomination. Not only is he on board with raising the retirement age, but Bush is also on record endorsing his brother’s plan during the 2005 fight.
There was some ambiguity yesterday, but the political dangers of Bush’s position couldn’t be clearer.