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Though not yet 24 hours old, the Republicans' Romney-Ryan ticket is already drawing fire for both men's plans for the "voucherization of Medicare." As it turns out, there's another reason Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan should worry about America's seniors and the millions more soon to join them. Both supported President Bush's aborted scheme to privatize Social Security, only to run away from their past positions after its staggering unpopularity and the 2008 meltdown of the U.S. financial system revealed that Republican path to be political suicide.

As Ryan Grim and others highlighted, Rep. Ryan was at the forefront of George W. Bush's 2005 effort to divert contributions from the Social Security trust fund into private accounts. (He would later agree with Texas Gov. Rick Perry that Social Security is "a Ponzi scheme.") To enable their Republican colleagues to sell the concept to their skeptical constituents, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) authored a presentation full of helpful talking points, such as:

"Your audience doesn't know how trillions and billions differ. They know these numbers are large, but not how large nor how many billions make a trillion. Boil numbers down to 'your family's share.' Also avoid percentages; your audience will try to calculate them in their head--no easy task while listening to a speech--and many will do it incorrectly."
As it turned out, of course, it was the Republicans who were doing the math wrong. As Matthew Yglesias summed it up last year:
What privatizers want to say is that current retirees will keep getting benefits and future retirees will be okay despite our lack of benefits because we'll have private accounts. But current retirees can't get benefits if my money is in a private account. And my account can't be funded if I'm paying benefits for current retirees.
Vice President Al Gore made the same point during his presidential debates against then Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, noting that "the trillion dollars that has been promised to young people has also been promised to older people," adding, "And you cannot keep both promises." By 2005, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated President Bush's plan to let younger workers divert a quarter of their payroll taxes into private accounts would add $17.7 trillion to the national debt by 2050.

But as Jonathan Chait recounted in April, Paul Ryan made George W. Bush's "fuzzy math" seem brilliant in comparison:

In 2005, when Bush campaigned to introduce private accounts into Social Security, Ryan fervently crusaded for the concept. He was the sponsor in the House of a bill to create new private accounts funded entirely by borrowing, with no benefit cuts. Ryan's plan was so staggeringly profligate, entailing more than $2 trillion in new debt over the first decade alone, that even the Bush administration opposed it as "irresponsible."
And even more irresponsible after the implosion of Wall Street in the fall of 2008.

(Continue reading below the fold.)

As Think Progress reported at the time, studies estimated that private accounts would lose money a third of the time. That fall, the Center for American Progress calculated that "that if a worker had retired on October 1, 2008 after 35 years of contributions to private retirement accounts, that retiree would have lost nearly $30,000 in retirement funds because of the downturn in the stock market over the last two years." And while retirees would face the risks inherent in the market, according to a 1997 analysis their Wall Street money managers would reap an estimated "$240 billion in fees during the first 12 years of a privatization scheme- this number is undoubtedly much higher now." And all the while, the Social Security Trust Fund, which currently helps offset the yawning federal budget deficits, would be depleted by trillions over the next several decades.

Nevertheless, even after the near-collapse of the American financial system, Paul Ryan stuck with his Social Security privatization gambit. With the rollout of the first version of his "Roadmap for America's Future" in February 2010, Ryan merely reduced from half how much of their Social Security payroll taxes Americans could shift into their own private accounts. As TPM explained:

Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-WI) the ranking Republican on the budget committee, recently detailed the Republican plan for Social Security that preserves the existing program for those 55 or older. For younger people the plan "offers the option of investing over one-third of their current Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts, similar to the Thrift Savings Plan available to federal employees."
But Ryan's boss, then House Minority John Boehner, was having none of it. Sensing the political danger, Boehner said of Ryan's Roadmap v1.0, "it's his." And with that, Social Security privatization disappeared from Roadmap 2.0 and the 2011 House Republican budget based on it.

And also vanished, it turns out, from Mitt Romney's second run for the White House.

This February, Romney offered his audience at an empty Ford Field in Detroit the same brief description of his plans for Social Security as you can find on his website:

"When it comes to Social Security, we will slowly raise the retirement age. We will slow the growth in benefits for higher-income retirees."

But "we" won't, Romney now insists, privatize the Social Security system. Obviously touchy on the subject, Mitt told a New Hampshire town hall audience last year that he supported no such thing:
Q: I have a question on Social way of doing it is privatizing, that people can invest their money, is that correct?

ROMNEY: I didn't say that here.

Q: Well, I saw it online, so maybe it's -

ROMNEY: I didn't mention that - there are - I didn't mention that. I described the three major one. There have been other ideas about people investing. You know, the disadvantage, I mean, the privatization of Social Security that doesn't make sense, the so-called privatizing of Social Security. There have been some who have said, "Let people save some of their money and invest it." The market goes up and down. I kind of like the system that we have in that regard.

It's no wonder Romney emphasized, "I didn't say that here." Because as his questioner rightly pointed out and as Think Progress has documented at length, for years Mitt Romney supported the very private accounts he now claims to oppose.

In his 2010 book, No Apology, Gov. Romney proclaimed, "I also like the fact the individual retirement accounts would encourage more Americans to invest in the private sector that powers our economy." During a 2008 GOP presidential debate, Romney explained that "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." The year before, Mitt frequently repeated his preference for private accounts:

June 2007: When a college student asked Romney how he, as president, planned to solidify Social Security's future, he endorsed private accounts: "One thing that the president proposed [on Social Security] that is a good idea is to take some of that money, or all of that surplus money and allow people to have a personal account. So they can invest in things that have a higher rate of return than just government debt. They can invest in things like our stock market or the world's stock that they can get a better return, and maybe that would make up for some of the shortfall. That's a good idea."

October 2007: At a town hall, Romney said there were "two major paths" lawmakers could take to shore up Social Security. The first, he said, was "to raise taxes on people, which I don't want to do. And the other is to allow some portion of people's money that they're now having taken out of their salaries to be invested in Social Security." When an attendee told him his plan was "privatization," Romney replied, "You call it privatization. I call it a private account."

As they have made clear for years, Americans call it a terrible idea. Which is why Romney-Ryan 2012 won't be saying anything in public about Social Security privatization.

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 05:51 PM PDT.

Also republished by Social Security Defenders.

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Comment Preferences

  •  They didn't build that, but that want to raid it (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gulfgal98, kurious, JeffW, howd

    for all it's worth!  SS $$ really add up - a billion here, a billion there can really add up!

    'Kiss my ass: This is a holy site for the Polish people, show some respect!' ~Rick Gorka, Romney spokesman

    by MsGrin on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 06:00:09 PM PDT

    •  you mean they want to keep raiding it. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gulfgal98, JeffW, howd

      congress has been balancing its budgets by raiding the ss fund since the vietnam war.

      but yeah, the r's want the money to go straight to ws.  that's what bush's privatization was supposed to do.  same scam.

      •  actually, the SS trust fund has always been used (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW, RandomNonviolence

        by the gov't, to pay current and future benefits. That's the way the law is written. The gov't issues Treasury bonds for what it borrows from SS. You couldn't have those billions just sitting around, and if the gov't is borrowing it's better to do it from its own (trust) funds.

        However, if the Congress ever tries to weasel out of repaying every penny of those bonds, under some "reform", (meaning low income tax rates) then there must be hell to pay. There should be a pledge by all candidates that they will never vote to stiff the repayment of the SS trust funds.

        This Rover crossed over.. Willie Nelson, written by Dorothy Fields

        by Karl Rover on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 07:01:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Well no. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Table VI.A3.— Operations of the Combined OASI and DI Trust Funds,
        Calendar Years 1957-2011

        Social Security was cash flow negative more years from 1956 to 1993 than cash flow positive. Which for those years meant Congress was not borrowing money at all but instead paying General Fund dollars either in cash interest or in actual redemption of principal.

        As regards Social Security NEITHER the LBJ/Nixon 'raid' NOR the Reagan 'raid' every happened. Particularly when measured by 'Trust Fund Ratio' (last column in the above table) where any score below 100 means insolvency.

        Social Security didn't start running significant surpluses until 1987. Neither the Vietnam era war spending nor the Reagan tax cut/arms buildup numbers were in any significant way paid for or disguised via borrowing from the Trust Funds. The dollars just were never there during the 60s through the 80s.

        Nobody despises Nixon or Reagan more than me, but the whole 'Raid' narrative is a myth designed ultimately to convince us that the money was already stolen. That is although it has a progressive slant it is just another cynical version of 'Phony IOU'. Check the numbers for yourself (ALWAYS excellent advice when it comes to Social Security, because most of what people on BOTH sides of the issue 'know' is on examination not supported by the actual data tables).

        by Bruce Webb on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 08:20:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks for the excellent info. but as i remember (0+ / 0-)

          it, lbj didn't dare ask for funding for vietnam as it was so unpopular, & he & congress did some "creative accounting" to juggle the books & come up w/the funding -- effectively putting the payoff date far off into the future -- decades, in fact.  

          the ruse was to steal from ss, which had an enormous surplus, & leave an i.o.u. for future administrations to deal with.  that way, it never went on-budget (officially, anyway) & the d's couldn't be painted with the r's favorite (and still) smear about the d's being tax & spend.

          what we "know" as you say, is rarely what "is."

  •  that mitt romney. always trying to save a buck. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peregrine kate, JeffW

    he even chose a running mate whose last name starts with the same letter as as his, so he doesn't have to spend money to re-tool his RRRomney logo (the one with three stylized capital R's made to look like they're shadows of each other, or whatever).

    now it can stand for Romney, Ryan, & Ruh-roh.

  •  We Need to Be Asking AARP When They're Going (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, RandomNonviolence

    to make an educational push on this. They should absolutely be 100% on our side and messaging their crucial constituency which has been voting against themselves till now.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 06:26:49 PM PDT

  •  They don't care where the money comes from... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    They just want to get their hands on it.  

    Just wait to see what can happen if they get their hands on control of the US Treasury, and over all government agencies.

  •  The Stale Pale Males... (0+ / 0-)

    ...With The Middle Class On The Bottom.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sat Aug 11, 2012 at 07:13:10 PM PDT

  •  Reiterate for us again Mittski, (0+ / 0-)

    that rousing speech about how your "America is the America that millions of Americans believe in and how that's the America you beilieve in", or some such equally baffling horeshit. If you believed in any aspect of America, couldn't you find it in your heart to do something more than hiding under the bed when there is even the remotest chance you might have to actually fight for her? Or how about at least stop blithering like the village idiot when attempting to gloss over your family's longstanding tradition of magically appearing on distant continents when asked to don a uniform? And what about your 'investing in America by way of the Caymans, Bermuda and Switzerland? I have an idea, how about talking up your more than apparent Native American connection to Chief Soils Himself, the original leader of the Wackamolean Tribe who made running from battle, conflict or anyone that raises his/her voice synonymous with your family name, you yellow sack of steaming santorum? You fucking soulless, witless, bottom-feeding hemmorhoid on a garden slug's ass... You have been lucky thus far as I am physically prevented from showing up at your 'stump' speeches (a real drag as I seldom get to see actual stumps make speeches) as well as my being constrained by decorum on my friends' threads or else I would REALLY drop the hammer on you, you loathsome, vile, repugnant pile of human fecal matter... As for wanting to prevent women's access to subsidized birth control? You could circumvent that entire issue by issuing a wallet-sized portrait of your 'sexually charged' family to every able bodied man and woman in America. If that didn't engender an immediate and compulsory moratorium on procreation, I don't know what would. Good luck in 2012 Flipp you spineless parasite!!!

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