So, in the spirit of helping the president and his staff get up to speed on Romney and Social Security, so that in the next debate he won't have any confusion on this issue, here's where Romney stands on the program. The short version: Everything he endorses would end up cutting Social Security benefits.
“To put it in a nutshell, the American people have been effectively defrauded out of their Social Security… Let’s look at what would happen if someone in the private sector did a similar thing. Suppose two grandparents created a trust fund, appointed a bank as trustee, and instructed the bank to invest the proceeds of the trust fund so as to provide for their grandchildren’s education. Suppose further that the bank used the proceeds for its own purposes, so that when the grandchildren turned eighteen, there was no money for them to go to college. What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money? They would go to jail. But what has happened to the people responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security? They keep returning to Congress every two years.” (No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, 2010, p. 172-3)He thinks privatizing it is a good idea:
“One thing that [President Bush] proposed, and it’s 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 market…so that they can get a better return, and maybe that would make up for some of the shortfall. That’s a good idea.” (Town Hall, Manchester, New Hampshire, June 5, 2007)He wants to raise the retirement age:
“For the next generation of retirees, we should slowly raise the retirement age.” (Remarks at Defending the American Dream Conference, November 4, 2011)He wants to turn it into a welfare program, by means-testing it:
"For the next generation of retirees, we should slow the growth in benefits for those with higher incomes." (Remarks at Defending the American Dream Conference, November 4, 2011)He's opposed to the most effective and straightforward solution to providing more revenue to the Social Security Trust fund: raising the payroll tax cap.
“One option that should not be on the table is raising the payroll tax or expanding the base of income to which the tax is applied.” (Believe in America: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Jobs and Economic Growth, September 2011, p. 142)And don't forget, he chose Paul Ryan as his running mate. That's the guy who calls Social Security a Ponzi Scheme and who had a privatization plan for it that was so extreme the Bush administration—the only White House that has ever supported privatization—rejected it. Also, too, Paul Ryan believes Social Security is a "collectivist" and "socialistic" program: "Social Security right now is a collectivist system, it’s a welfare transfer system."
Now, we haven't gotten a lot of specific details directly from the president about what he wants to do or not do about Social Security, beyond that he's opposed to privatizing it and that he won't let it be "slashed" (a specific definition of "slashed" hasn't been offered yet). But it's pretty certain that there's plenty of daylight between what Mitt Romney believes about Social Security and what President Obama believes.
Some clarification of those differences is something that voters are going to need to hear from the president between now and Nov. 6.