Earlier this week, a host of Republican pundits tried to claim that no members of their party are proposing to privatize Social Security. “There’s no Republican, basically, standing up and saying that, and we haven’t for a very long time,” said Republican talking head Ed Rollins.
Of course, plenty of Republicans have proposed just that, most notably Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), whose Roadmap for America includes the creation of personal Social Security accounts. Kentucky’s Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul said “let young working people opt out, the sooner the better, let ‘em opt out and get a better investment,” while Indiana’s GOP Senate candidate Dan Coats has endorsed a Social Security plan “along the lines of what Paul Ryan has proposed.”
And then there’s Pat Toomey, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Pennsylvania. During an interview with Real Clear Politics, Toomey touted his plan for Social Security privatization, conveniently leaving out the word “privatization”:
RCP: Your campaign website, under “spending,” complains of “wasteful pork projects, multiple bailouts, the so-called stimulus, and new government programs.” But what about entitlements?
Toomey: You know, I’ve always said that we need to reform our big entitlement programs. These programs are not sustainable in their current form and so we’re going to have to put them on a secure footing. That’s what we have to do.
RCP: OK, how do we do that? Do we raise the retirement age? Do we cut benefits?
Toomey: I’ve got a whole chapter in a book that I wrote that deals with how I think, one of the ways I think we could reform Social Security to make it viable. So I have provided great detail on that whole idea. That would be a very important start.
Of course, in Toomey’s book, the first subhead under the “Transforming Social Security” chapter is “Personal Accounts Lead to Personal Prosperity.” And it’s really no surprise, considering Toomey’s reaction to President George W. Bush’s privatization scheme. “I have been arguing for many years in favor of Social Security personal retirement accounts,” Toomey said at the time. “I’m thrilled that the President is taking up this critical issue.”
Of course, as a Center for American Progress Action Fund analysis found, under a Bush-style privatization plan, an October 2008 retiree would have lost $26,000 in that year’s market turmoil, and if the U.S. stock market had behaved like the Japanese market during that retiree’s life, the private account would have lost $70,000. And it’s likely not a coincidence that Toomey didn’t let the word privatization into his response, as polls show that such a plan is highly unpopular.