Texas Governor Rick Perry raised more than a few eyebrows at last week’s Republican presidential debate when he (yet again) deemed Social Security to be “a Ponzi scheme.” Cue the re-debunking, bad national press and some Democratic fun at Governor Perry’s expense.
Today, things are different. Well, not in the sense that there isn’t yet another Republican presidential debate (there is). But in advance of this new debate, Governor Perry writes in a USA Today op-ed:
The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America’s goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term. But Americans deserve a frank and honest discussion of the dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year-old program.
No, Governor Perry does not technically walk back his “Ponzi scheme” language. I’m not sure a presidential candidate can effectively walk back the kind of nasty stuff he has said about Social Security, now that he has accused what’s arguably one of the most popular social programs in American history of “violently tossing aside any respect for our founding principles,” as he did in his book.
But he’d like you to know today that we need to fix that “Ponzi scheme,” and do it now. It will be interesting to see if this is part of a grander effort to upgrade Governor Perry’s image on this issue, or if he underestimates the messaging problem on his hands.
ONE MORE THING.
Which is too bad, because of course, we should speak frankly about the financial condition of Social Security. So here’s some gutsy talk for y’all: Social Security has a small long-term funding shortfall. It can be fixed easily. The CBO recently estimated that Social Security has a long-term cumulative deficit of 0.6% of GDP, and the table below lists 30 options for fixing this. All you have to do is pick some combination of options that adds up to 0.6% and you’re done. It’s so easy that even Rick Perry can do it.
Personally, I’d wait and phase in some changes starting in about 20 years or so, which would require picking a basket of options that adds up to something like 1.2% or so. But that’s just little old coastal left-winger me. Either way, though, whether you make the changes now or later, it’s all pretty simple.