Republicans Tout Plans to Rescue Social Security During 3rd Debate

From means testing to ending foreign wars, Republican candidates presented plans to save Social Security.
Republicans Tout Plans to Rescue Social Security During 3rd Debate
(L–R) Former Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, former Governor from South Carolina and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) attend the third Republican presidential primary debate at the Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami, Fla., on Nov. 8, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)
Andrew Moran

The 2024 Republican presidential candidates touted their plans to preserve Social Security and prevent the retirement income program’s demise during the third GOP primary debate on Nov. 8 in Miami.

President Joe Biden and the Democrats have long accused the Republican Party of being on a crusade to gut the retirement scheme by cutting benefits. But many of the GOP contenders assert that changes need to be made to ensure that Social Security remains intact and current and future retirees maintain access to monthly checks.

Means Testing and Young People

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie proposed raising the retirement eligibility age for younger workers, pointing to his 30-year-old son. He rejected suggestions that the federal government needs to raise taxes.

Mr. Christie singled out eminent billionaire investor Warren Buffett.

“I don’t know if Warren Buffett has collected Social Security, but if he is, shame on you,” he said. “Rich people” should not receive these retirement benefits.

Citing reports that Social Security will go bankrupt in 10 years and Medicare will become insolvent in eight, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley stated that candidates who say they will not take on entitlements are not being forthright.

While she wants to keep the promises made to today’s recipients, Ms. Haley agreed with her opponent from New Jersey on making changes for young Americans.

“You go, and you say we’re going to change the rules. You change the retirement age for them instead of the cost of living increases. We should go to increases based on inflation. We should limit benefits to the wealthy,” she said.

For Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), growing the national economy and cutting federal spending is paramount to ensuring that “every mother or grandfather” continues receiving Social Security.

“As president of the United States, I will protect your Social Security,” he said.

Foreign Wars and Inflation

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy proposed a series of measures the U.S. government could employ to ensure that Social Security and Medicare benefits for current seniors remain intact. This would include shedding the number of federal employees, ending foreign wars, dismantling regulations, and zero-base budgeting.

“I believe this is our last best window to be able to take care of our national debt problem through those severe measures, including sacrificing foreign wars that many bloodthirsty members of both parties have a hunger for,” Mr. Ramaswamy said.

“That’s the one secret we’re going to be able to do this, and that requires discipline. So, we can’t have the first conversation we were having of sending foreign aid willy nilly to countries whose national debt per capita is less than ours.”

Inflation has been detrimental to the health of Social Security, said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“When you have higher inflation, seniors get a cost of living adjustment, which means the program’s spending more. But it doesn’t cover the increase in the actual inflation rate,” he explained.

In October, the Social Security Administration announced that 71 million people will get a 3.2 percent boost in their benefits next year. The average beneficiary will receive about $50 more every month starting in January.

He also believes that the economy needs to achieve at least a 3 percent growth rate and resolve the fiscal challenges gripping Congress.

Ultimately, Mr. DeSantis blamed Washington for the retirement scheme’s financial issues because Congress took money from Social Security to have more tax revenue and submitted IOUs.

“Congress has a lot of dirty hands on this,” he said.

When asked if he favored raising the retirement age, the governor stated that it would be a difficult option because life expectancy has steadily declined.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that U.S. life expectancy fell to 76.4 years, the shortest span in close to two decades.
Former President Donald Trump, absent from the third GOP debate hosted by NBC News, has repeatedly urged Republican lawmakers not to touch Social Security or Medicare.
“Do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives. Save Social Security. Don’t destroy it!” he said in a January 2023 video message.

Democrats Respond

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) accused the Republican presidential candidates of “campaigning on ending Social Security and Medicare as we know them.”

So-called MAGA Republicans running for the White House have maintained records of fighting to slash both programs, the DNC noted.

“The 2024 Republican field is threatening to put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block and gut essential programs that working families and seniors rely on,” the organization stated.

“It’s just another example of their failed MAGAnomics agenda that only benefits the ultra-wealthy while leaving everyday Americans behind.”

Voters Seek Entitlement Reform

The American people have been regularly warned that Social Security and Medicare insolvency is creeping closer. Today, more people are receiving benefits than are paying in, further eroding the trust fund. Experts have warned that tough decisions—including benefit cuts—will need to be made when this happens.

Policymakers on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged that something needs to be done to address these challenges. However, each party has presented different policy prescriptions to remedy these schemes’ gaping shortfalls.

For voters, ignoring Social Security’s bankruptcy is no longer an option, according to a recent survey.

A new poll sponsored by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) found that 83 percent believed that if nothing is done to secure Social Security financially, it would be bankrupt in a decade or face severe cuts. Additionally, 87 percent agreed that officials need to impose changes immediately to avoid benefit cuts and extend the program’s life.

Most polling respondents supported eliminating or limiting benefits for high-income beneficiaries and cutting spending on other federal government programs. However, more rejected proposals of raising the retirement age to access Social Security benefits and raising taxes on these benefits.