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The Democrat/Republican Presidential Candidate Divide On Social Security

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Reprinted from Campaign For America's Future

The fight is on for Social Security.
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The differences between Democratic presidential candidates and most Republican candidates on Social Security -- and retirement security in general -- could emerge as a "sleeper issue" in the 2016 campaign.

Friday's post, Martin O'Malley Offers Strong Plan To Expand Retirement Security, looked at the retirement crisis facing aging Americans and Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders' plans to boost retirement security. (Hillary Clinton has not released plan beyond saying she would be open to raising the income cap on Social Security taxes to help shore up the program's finance.)

These candidates want to expand retirement security because Democrats generally have a "we are all in this together" and "it takes a village" approach to taking care of each other, which includes the elderly. Republicans have a very different "each of us on our own" approach to society. This applies to retirement security with Republicans largely believing that retirement income and even to a large extent healthcare should be more, or even entirely, up to the individual.

Most current Republican presidential candidates, with the notable exception of Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, follow this "on your own" philosophy, offering plans to raise the retirement age, raise the early retirement age, means-test benefits, cut benefits, partially privatize it with some of the money going into Wall Street-managed personal accounts or just privatize the program entirely with all of it going into Wall Street-managed personal accounts. (Note that God/Mother Turtle likes to weigh in with coincident stock-market drops when Republicans start discussing putting Social Security into stock. The stock market dropped 1,000 points last week, and has fallen more than 10% recently.)

The positions of the top 10 Republican candidates, Fox debate style, (in the order of their current polling rank), are:

Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, has chastised the other Republicans for "attacking Social Security" and says "America's real problem is that it has lost manufacturing jobs to China." Trump says, "It's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut." This is likely part of his appeal to voters.

Second-place Republican candidate Jeb! "work longer hours" Bush says he wants the retirement age raised to 68, even 70. (He did not know that it had already been raised to 67.) And he wants the program privatized into Wall Street-managed personal accounts. (Bush has also said Medicare should be "phased out.")

Third-place Ben Carson wants to "reestablish the idea that each individual is responsible for their own pension and that government programs like Social Security are only supplemental in nature. " The age at which benefits are distributed should be gradually raised." Carson more recently said, "What I would propose is that we allow people to opt out of receiving their Social Security payment in lieu of a tax credit."

Marco Rubio wants to raise the retirement age and means-test benefits. He has not yet offered a comprehensive plan, but has said he wants to convert Medicare into "premium support payments" to use to buy private insurance.

Mike Huckabee, like Trump, differs from his fellow Republicans. He has said, "If Congress wants to take away someone's retirement, let them end their own congressional pensions -- not your Social Security." During the Republican debate Huckabee said, "One of the reasons that Social Security is in so much trouble is that the only funding stream comes from people who get a wage. The people who get wages is declining dramatically. Most of the income in this country is made by people at the top who get dividends and capital gains."

Ted Cruz wants to cut benefits, then privatize the system into "personal accounts" managed by Wall Street.

Carly Fiorina has said, "[L]et's start talking about raising the retirement age for Social Security."

Scott Walker also wants the retirement age raised. He says, "We live in a 401K society, we're ready for reform." He has not yet offered specifics, beyond saying it needs "significant reform."

Rand Paul wants to raise the retirement age to 70. He previously proposed "means testing benefits, private accounts, and opt-out" which means younger people can opt out of the system entirely.

Chris Christie wants to raise the retirement age to 69 and means-test to reduce benefits at $80,000 income and stop benefits entirely at $200,000.

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