At a recent town hall event captured by CNN, a woman stood up to ask about Romney’s views on private social security accounts like the ones proposed by former President George W. Bush. Romney said he has described the options for Social Security but that he opposed privatization in Social Security and said that he’s instead in favor of letting some people save a portion of their income tax-free:
WOMAN: If I understand it correctly, that you say part of Social Security, one way of doing it is privatizing, that people can invest their money, is that correct?
ROMNEY: I didn’t mention that. There are ideas, I didn’t mention that. I just described the three major ones. There have been other ideas about people investing. You know, the disadvantage, privatization of Social Security, that doesn’t make sense. I mean, privatizing Social Security. There have been some that have said let people save some of their money and let them invest it. The market goes up and down. I kind of like the system the way that we have in that regard. It would be nice if people could take a portion of their income and save it tax-free.
Besides the fact that people already have the option to save a portion of their income tax-free (IRAs and 401[k]s are made for this purpose), it’s important to point out that in the past Romney had praised Bush’s privatization push. In 2007, during a Republican presidential primary debate, Romney said that Bush’s plan “works“:
HUME: How about it, Governor Romney? Are you prepared to be as bold as Senator Thompson has been in making an — in addressing these extremely politically sensitive entitlement programs?
ROMNEY: I’m prepared to be entirely bold, but I’m not prepared to cut benefits for low-income Americans. We’re going to make sure that we protect these programs for our seniors. That’s number one. Number two…
ROMNEY: Well, our current seniors. Currently, we’re taking more money into Social Security that we actually send out. So our current seniors, their benefits are not going to change. For people 20 and 30 and 40 years old, we have four major options, for instance, for Social Security. One is the one Democrats want: raise taxes. It’s the wrong way to go. Number two, the president said let’s have private accounts and take that surplus money that’s being gathered now in Social Security and put that into private accounts. That works.
Given Romney’s statements in 2007 and his statements this week, it is unclear where the presidential contender actually stands on introducing privatization into Social Security.