Putting Social Security privatization on the table


When it comes to entitlement programs, there’s been quite a bit of talk during the presidential campaign about Medicare, and even some worthwhile discussion of Medicaid, but Social Security has garnered far less attention. That may soon change.

When it comes to political salience – moments most likely to show up in an attack ad and keep a campaign off-balance – Paul Ryan’s defense of Social Security privatization was clearly one of the more newsworthy developments of last night’s debate.

Martha Raddatz reminded Ryan, “You were one of the few lawmakers to stand with President Bush when he was seeking to partially privatize Social Security.”

The congressman replied, “For younger people. What we said then, and what I’ve always agreed, is let younger Americans have a voluntary choice of making their money work faster for them within the Social Security system.” Ryan went on to endorse some Social Security benefit cuts for wealthier seniors, as well as a “slow” increase in the retirement age.

None of this is likely to be well received by seniors.

What’s more, all of this comes against the backdrop of Ryan’s long-standing opposition to Social Security itself – a program the Republican lawmaker has condemned as “a collectivist system.” Ryan has even characterized Social Security’s champions as “collectivist, class warfare-breathing demagogues.”

If Democrats hoped to bring the Republicans’ far-right plans for Social Security back into the campaign spotlight, it appears Ryan did the Obama campaign a big favor last night.