While there have been plenty of polls suggesting John McCain would enjoy more support from elderly voters than Barack Obama, I’ve taken some solace in the fact that very few voters, in any age group, realize just how wrong McCain is about Social Security. For voters over a certain age, it has the potential to be quite a political problem.
Compounding the problem, of course, is that McCain seems to have trouble keeping track of what his position on Social Security is.
Take his interview this morning on “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Regis Philbin isn’t exactly known as a tough questioner, but this exchange was interesting:
MCCAIN: What should be partisan about the fact that Social Security is going to go broke? I mean, should we be divided up among Republican and Democrat…
PHILBIN: Do you have a plan?
MCCAIN: Yes, sir. It’s gonna require, though, cooperation and participation by the other side. And I’ll reach my hand out…
PHILBIN: Is it privatization of the Social Security program?
MCCAIN: No, no it isn’t. But I would say that I support … I’d put everything on the table to start with … but second of all … young workers ought to be able to put part of their salary, part of their taxes into Social Security, into an account with their name on it. But that would not in any way effect older workers. But you’ve got to have a negotiation.
First, McCain’s factual claims are just odd. Social Security isn’t “going broke.” What’s more, he doesn’t believe in privatization, but rather, wants workers to take their money out of the Social Security system and into private accounts. This, as far as McCain is concerned, is not privatization.
Second, the McCain campaign can’t seem to settle on one consistent position on the policy.
In 2000, McCain touted a Social Security privatization scheme, not unlike the proposal Bush made in 2005. Eight years later, his campaign decided to go in a different direction.
Sen. McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign Web site takes a different view, proposing “supplementing” the existing full Social Security system with personally managed accounts. Such accounts wouldn’t substitute for guaranteed payments, and they wouldn’t be financed by diverting a portion of Social Security payroll taxes.
Mr. McCain’s chief economic aide, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former head of the Congressional Budget Office, says economic circumstances forced changes concerning Social Security policy. Vast budget surpluses projected in 2000 evaporated with a recession, the Bush tax cuts and the cost of responding to Sept. 11.
Asked about the change, McCain rejected his own campaign’s Social Security policy. “I’m totally in favor of personal savings accounts…. As part of Social Security reform, I believe that private savings accounts are a part of it — along the lines that President Bush proposed.”
When reminded that his campaign website says something completely different, McCain said his site would be changed. Two and a half months later, the site remains the same. As a result, McCain and his campaign have taken completely different positions on the issue, with the candidate embracing the same policy pushed by Bush, which Americans rejected overwhelmingly.
I wonder what seniors in Florida are going to think about this?