In recent months, a number of Republican leaders have endorsed various schemes to once again attempt what President Bush failed to do — privatize all or part of Social Security. Former House Speaker and likely presidential candidate Newt Gingrich recently endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to privatize Social Security and Medicare; Reps. Dan Lungren (R-CA), Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) have all touted personal accounts; and, Alaska GOP Senate nominee Joe Miller has suggested that the social safety net programs are unconstitutional.
But in an interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto today, Florida GOP Senate nominee Marco Rubio made a stark break with those in his party who want privatize the social safety net, saying explicitly that he is not even “open” to the idea, before explaining why privatization wouldn’t work:
RUBIO: Anyone telling you that we shouldn’t touch [Social Security], they are going to play tricky political games, they’re going to go around saying that I’m in favor of privatizing it, or raising the retirement age on current beneficiaries —
CAVUTO: But you are open to privatizing it, sir?
RUBIO: No, I think for that — no I’m not. That time has come and gone.
CAVUTO: What about for young guys like you who could take some of the money and put it in the market?
RUBIO: The problem is that it takes money — it makes it more difficult to balance the system in the long term.
CAVUTO: Do you’d be against it?
RUBIO: Yeah, I don’t think that’s the solution.
Rubio’s stance is surprising, not just because it conflicts with many of his like-minded conservative peers, but also because it conflicts with his own stated position on Social Security reform. In May, Rubio said he supported Ryan’s “Roadmap,” which would “allow workers to invest a portion of their Social Security payments into a personal retirement account,” something very similar to what Bush proposed. “I’m proud of [Rubio] for doing something bold,” Ryan said in response to news of Rubio’s endorsement. On his website, Rubio also says his position is similar to one “that numerous responsible Republicans have taken including Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI).”
Of course, the Rubio of today is correct in saying that privatizing Social Security would put the system in grave danger, and his new stance reflects the view of nearly half of Americans who are “very uncomfortable” with replacing Social Security with private accounts.