Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) made news early in his presidential campaign for declaring Social Security, one of the federal government’s most popular and successful programs, unconstitutional. He hit the headlines again just two weeks later when, during a campaign stop in Iowa, he called it a “Ponzi scheme.”
But now, as part of a million dollar ad buy meant to resuscitate his campaign before the Iowa caucuses, Perry is attempting to pitch himself as a defender of Social Security. Decrying Washington’s “political correctness,” Perry claims he isn’t allowed to say that “Washington insiders are bankrupting Social Security,” an interesting claim given his apparent desire to fully dismantle it:
PERRY: Washington is the capital of political correctness, where double speak reigns and truth is frowned upon. You can’t say that congressmen becoming lobbyists is a form of legal corruption or that we give aid money to countries that oppose America. Or that Washington insiders are bankrupting Social Security. You and I know it’s true, but not politically correct. I’m Rick Perry, an outsider who will overhaul Washington and tell you the truth.
Perry first declared Social Security unconstitutional in August, telling The Daily Beast’s Andrew Romano that the Founding Fathers weren’t “thinking about a federally operated program of pensions” when they drafted the Constitution. He then made the infamous Ponzi scheme remark two weeks later. He’s also offered support for a privatization plan that has been a proven failure.
Perry isn’t the only Republican who has targeted Social Security in the past, but is trying to paint himself as a defender of the program now. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) also called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, yet claimed (inaccurately) that Democrats were bankrupting the program last week. South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (R), a proponent of privatization, made the same false claim.
Perry and his Republican friends continue to ignore basic facts about Social Security and its future. Despite Perry’s claims, Social Security not going bankrupt — it has a $2.6 trillion surplus and is fully solvent for at least another 25 years — and it’s long-term viability isn’t hard to fix. The problem is, Perry and his GOP colleagues continue to willingly ignore the easiest way to ensure Social Security’s solvency for the next three-quarters of a century.