A whole host of Republican congressional candidates and lawmakers — including former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA) — have tried to run away from their support for Social Security privatization, denying that they favor such a move (despite continuing to call for the creation of personal Social Security accounts). Last night, Colorado’s Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck became to latest to deny that his privatization plan would actually privatize the system:
“I’ve never said we should privatize Social Security,” [Buck] told [Sen. Michael] Bennet, whose committee has made that accusation against Buck in television ads.
Buck doesn’t seem to have much of a mind for policy specifics, as he thinks extending the Bush tax cuts will help pay down the deficit. But in the course of the same debate, as the Pueblo Chieftan reported, Buck “said he supported redesigning Social Security so that younger workers in the future would have the option of investing in separate retirement accounts.” That is privatization, whether Buck likes the term or not.
And in the past, Buck has been a full-throated supporter of privatized accounts:
We’ve got to peg Social Security to individuals so those individuals have the ability perhaps to invest in various funds that are approved by the government. But those individuals also own that fund.
In fact, Buck has questioned whether the federal government should have any role in a retirement plan at all. “I don’t know whether it’s Constitutional or not,” Buck told the Constitutionalist Today Forum in March. “It should be a plan that certainly once people pay into it, they have the expectation of getting a return and they’re entitled to that, but the idea the federal government should be running health care or retirement or any of those programs is fundamentally against what I believe and that is that the private sector runs programs like that far better.”
Supporters of privatized Social Security accounts, like Buck, contend that only safe investments will be allowed under their plans. Proponents of President Bush’s failed privatization push in 2005 said much the same thing, and held up companies like Lehman Brothers, AIG, and Citigroup — the poster-children of the economic collapse — as fail-safe bets for retirement accounts.
Instead of acknowledging the many flaws in their privatization plan (including the fact that it wouldn’t set the system on a path to solvency), Republicans are just trying to change the terms used in the debate, insisting that privatization is something else that sounds nicer. They’re focused on the semantics, but anyone who would have to live with their riskier system should focus on the specifics.