ThinkProgress filed this report from Ottumwa, Iowa.
During a campaign stop in Ottumwa, Iowa this past weekend, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) continued his assault on Social Security, saying it was no longer a “retirement program” but has just “turned into a tax.”
Perry is certainly no fan of Social Security. In his November 2010 book Fed Up!, he wrote that the program “toss[es] aside any respect for our founding principles.” Social Security exists, according to Perry, “at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government.” With views like these, it’s hardly surprising that Perry believes Social Security is unconstitutional.
Speaking at an Ottumwa coffee shop on Saturday, Perry redoubled his attack on Social Security. When a conservative voter asked Perry why the current administration was promoting Social Security as an entitlement program — a view that all but the most right-wing people hold — the Texas governor went a step further. Perry told the woman Social Security “was a retirement program” when it began, but “it’s turned into a tax now.”
QUESTIONER: This administration is promoting Social Security as an entitlement program.
PERRY: Who’s that?
QUESTIONER: The current administration. Especially lately I’ve noticed on TV that’s what they’re promoting it as. The question is, that what it originally started out to be is not an entitlement program, Americans who are working, putting money into it…
PERRY: It was a retirement program, and actually it’s turned into a tax now.
Perry went on to tell the crowd that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and a “monstrous lie.” Watch video of the exchange here.
Of course, Perry completely ignores that Social Security has been, arguably, the most important social program that the country has implemented, causing poverty amongst seniors to plummet. Without Social Security benefits, almost half of Americans over the age of 65 would be living in poverty; with Social Security, fewer than 10 percent of seniors are actually living below the poverty line. Social Security is especially important for Hispanic, African-American, and female retirees.
Later that day, ThinkProgress asked Perry if conservatives should be worried that he’s tempering his hardline views on Social Security now that he’s running for president. Perry replied that he hasn’t “backed off anything” in his book, despite efforts from his campaign to walk back the governor’s view that Social Security is unconstitutional.