ThinkProgress filed this report from Berlin, New Hampshire.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) was confronted at the Iowa State Fair last week for indicating that, as president, he would not support lifting the income cap on taxes used to finance Social Security (currently, income above $106,800 is exempt).
Romney was again asked about his plans today in New Hampshire, where a questioner asked him why he supported raising the retirement age instead of raising the payroll tax cap. Romney reiterated that raising the cap amounted to a tax increase he would not support, and falsely claimed that it wouldn’t “begin the solve the problem” facing Social Security’s long-term viability:
ROMNEY: What I want to do is make sure Social Security is there for your generation.
ATTENDEE: By raising the retirement age, though?
ROMNEY: There are two ways we could go, you can tell me your choice. One is we can keep Social Security —
ATTENDEE: Raise the cap.
ROMNEY: That doesn’t begin to solve the problem. […] My guess is [people] are going to say, give me lower benefit growth but don’t raise my taxes.
Upon Romney’s proclamation that raising the cap on income taxed for Social Security purposes would not “begin to solve the problem,” the woman presented evidence backing up her claim, telling him that raising the cap would ensure the program’s solvency for at least 75 years. Romney responded, “I don’t agree with your numbers.” He then guessed that Americans would rather face benefit cuts than an increase in the amount of income taxed, despite poll numbers showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans are opposed to benefit cuts.
But whether Romney agrees with the numbers is moot because the questioner’s evidence is correct. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, fully eliminating the cap without increasing benefits would create a long-term surplus for Social Security and would indeed ensure its solvency for at least 75 years. None of the other “solutions” Romney proposed — means testing benefits, changing the way benefits are calculated, or raising the retirement age — would strengthen the program so substantially without drastically cutting benefits.
Romney is, however, correct in one way: raising the cap on the amount of income taxed for Social Security purposes does not begin to solve the problem. Instead, it solves the problem altogether.