I'm waiting to see how Mitt Romney walks any of this back once the general election begins if he ends up winning the Republican presidential nomination because I don't see how his statements tonight on Social Security and Medicare are going to help him with seniors later on, no matter how many times he reiterates that the cuts won't affect current recipients or those over fifty five years of age. During this Monday night's Republican debate Romney apparently thinks that seniors don't care what happens to their children or grandchildren.
Romney was asked what he would do in regards to Social Security and Medicare and he started things out with one of the Republican zombie lies out there, that President Obama cut $500 billion from Medicare. Mother Jones has more on why that's just not true here -- Return of the Big GOP Medicare Lie.
He also fully endorsed raising the eligibility ages for both Social Security and Medicare, endorsed Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare, means testing which turns the programs into welfare programs and block-granting Medicaid back to the states. He also seemed to completely contradict himself within the time frame of a few minutes with his follow up a little later in the debate when he said "we simply can't say we're going to go out and borrow more money to let people set up new accounts to take money away from Social Security and Medicare today." Just what does he think those "voluntary" accounts are going to do to future benefit recipients? It's bad enough the man flip flops on every issue, he couldn't even get his talking points straight within a sentence of each other.
Sadly the awful policies he was promoting here rather than raising taxes on the wealthy and raising the income cap on payroll taxes and curbing the cost of health insurance by moving to a single payer program are not anything that either interests or is supported by his fellow Republican primary contenders, or the hapless moderators asking the questions during the debate.
Transcript below the fold.
SEIB: Gov. Romney, in the book you wrote just before this campaign began, you said you were surprised at the press in the last campaign didn't press for more specifics on how to fix Social Security and Medicare. So let's fix that tonight. Let me ask you specifically. Would you reduce the cost of these programs by raising the retirement age for Social Security, by raising the eligibility age for Medicare, or by reducing benefits for seniors with higher incomes?
ROMNEY: Let me lay it out. First of all, for the people who are already retired, or 55 years of age and older, nothing changes. It's very important because I know the Democrats are going to be showing videos of you know, old people being thrown off cliffs and so forth, but don't forget. Don't forget who it was that cut Medicare by five hundred billion dollars, and that was President Obama to pay for Obamacare. Let's not forget that.
What I would do with Social Security is that I would lower, for the, if will the 2.0, the version for the next generations coming up, I'd lower the rate of inflation growth and the benefits received by higher income recipients and keep the rate as it is now pretty high, for low income recipients. And I'd also add a year or two to the retirement age under Social Security. That balances Social Security.
With regards to Medicare, I would lay out the plan that I actually did a couple of months ago that said again, for higher income recipients, lower benefits, a premium support program, which allows people to buy either current standard Medicare or a private plan. And this is the proposal which Congressman Paul Ryan has adopted. It's a proposal that I believe is absolutely right on, where you have a premium support program, give people choice, let competition exist in our Medicare program by virtue of the two things I've described.
Higher benefits for lower income people. Lower benefits for higher income people and making a premium support program in Medicare and Social Security a slightly higher retirement age. If you balance those two programs... by the way, the third major entitlement, Medicaid you send back to the states and the fourth new entitlement, Obamacare, you repeal that one and finally get our balance sheet right.
ROMNEY: Rick is right. I know it's popular here to say we can do this and it's not going to cost anything, but look, it's going to get tough to get our federal spending from the current twenty five percent of the GDP, down to twenty, down to eighteen percent, which has been our history. We've got a huge number of obligations in this country and cutting back is going to have to happen.
I know something about balancing budgets. In the private sector, you don't have a choice. You balance your budget or you go out of business. And we simply can't say we're going to go out and borrow more money to let people set up new accounts to take money away from Social Security and Medicare today. Therefore, we should allow people to have a voluntary account, a voluntary savings program, tax free. That's why I've said anybody, middle income should be able to save their money, tax free. No tax on interest, dividends or capital gains. That'll get Americans saving and accomplish as your objective Mr. Speaker, without threatening the future of America's vitality, by virtue of fiscal insanity.