Politics & Policy

Marco Rubio Faces Down the Social Security Bogeyman

Democrats are getting into the Halloween spirit a little early, sending out the Social Security bogeyman to frighten seniors into thinking the GOP would like to cut the program out from under them. Unfortunately, such ads are all trick and no treat.

One in six Floridians receives Social Security, so the strategy is no surprise. Allen Boyd in the 2nd district has given it a shot. So has Suzanne Kosmas in the 24th district. Now Charlie Crist is hopping on the bandwagon.

In his latest ad, Crist spookily suggests that Republican Marco Rubio wants to raise the retirement age and cut benefits: “That’s Washington for you – balance the budget on the backs of seniors.” The press release accompanying the ad says that the spot “highlights Marco Rubio’s support for dismantling Social Security as we know it.”

Here’s what Rubio actually says on the campaign trail:

“I am a big fan of Social Security and Medicare. Both of my parents are in their eighties, and they are on Social Security and Medicare, and I’ll tell you right now, if those programs didn’t exist for them, their lives would be very different,” Rubio said. “I want to save those programs. I don’t want to see a single penny of benefit cuts for them during their lifetimes.”

Indeed, Rubio has tacitly supported elements of Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Roadmap,” and said he wouldn’t change anything about the program for Americans aged 55 or older. The twisting of the truth is flagrant — especially when coupled with pictures of Crist mingling with retirees who are, by the looks of it, well over 55.

Crist’s ad, then, is just fear-mongering.

But don’t reach for that Wes Craven film just yet, as there’s still a way for Social Security to send a shiver of fear up the spine. Just take a look at the projected outcome of doing nothing — graph courtesy of Ryan’s “Roadmap.” Yes, you’re reading that correctly — the last number does indeed say negative 6,000 billion dollars.

And that’s where the biggest deception takes place. Crist is depicted in his ad as a savior for Social Security because he opposes reform. “There’s a better choice,” the ad states. “Charlie Crist is against raising the retirement age. He’ll protect Social Security because our seniors have earned it.”

But opposing reform is exactly what will drive the program into the ground, and the entire federal budget with it. The longer Congress waits, the worse the problem becomes. Don’t worry, though, Crist does have a substantive policy proposal to fix the problem — amnesty for illegal aliens! (Oh, wait, that actually wouldn’t help at all.)

The electorate is alive with a desire to cut spending, but plagued by an unwillingness to give anything up. When a pollster asked in April, the only program that more than a third of Americans agreed should receive a lower level of funding was foreign aid.

That Rubio is willing to risk attacks like these in order to talk about and fix a looming problem is a measure of his character as a candidate.

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