The Corner

Crist Pulls the Social Security Card

With Republican Marco Rubio rising in the polls in the Florida Senate race, Republican-turned-Independent Charlie Crist has taken a page from the Democrats’ playbook by shamelessly attacking both of his opponents for wanting to “cut Social Security benefits.”

In remarks on Wednesday, Crist declared:  “I’m the only candidate in this race who has said that we need to stay with Social Security and protect it the way it is for our seniors now. My Republican opponent — former House Speaker Marco Rubio — wants to raise the age of eligibility and restructure how Social Security is delivered and means test. That’s wrong. My Democratic opponent — Congressman Meek — wants to punt it to a Commission. We all know what happens in Congress when they give it to a Commission — they raise the age of eligibility and they restructure how they deliver Social Security and means test. That’s wrong.” Crist went on to say: “And this is one of the toughest economies we’ve had since the Great Depression. Now my friends, of all times, is not the time to cut benefits in Social Security.”

Marco Rubio agrees that now is “not the time to cut benefits in Social Security.” Rubio, whose mother relies on Social Security, is on record opposing any changes in benefits for those who are retired or approaching retirement. Rubio has called for America to engage in an adult conversation about strengthening Social Security for future retirees, which means putting all options on the table (except raising taxes, which Rubio has ruled out).

Charlie Crist, on the other hand, is taking an irresponsible head-in-the-sand approach boasting that he is “the only candidate that says Social Security is solvent. Everywhere I’ve read, it says  it’s solvent at least until 2037, if not 2041.” Apparently Crist hasn’t read the most recent Social Security Trustees report, which found:

Under current law, the cost of Social Security will generally increase faster than the program’s income because of the aging of the baby-boom generation, continuing low fertility (compared to the baby-boom period), and increasing life expectancy. Based on the Trustees’ best estimate, program cost will exceed tax income in 2010 and 2011 due to the economic recession and to an expected downward adjustment to 2010 income that corrects for excess payroll tax revenue credited to the Trust Funds in earlier years.

In other words, Social Security is spending more than it is taking in. According to the Trustees Report, if nothing is done to address Social Security’s deteriorating finances, “the trust funds become exhausted in 2037.” The result: Social Security benefits will be reduced by 22 percent in just 27 years, which will be a dramatic cut for someone who is retiring now when they are in their eighties. Therefore, doing nothing locks in the benefit cuts that Crist says he opposes. He can’t have it both ways (although lately, that hasn’t been too much of a problem for him).

— Cesar Conda is a member of Marco Rubio’s Policy Advisory Committee.

Cesar Conda — Mr. Conda, formerly assistant for domestic policy to Vice President Cheney, is a founding principal of Navigators Global, a Washington, D.C.–based public-affairs firm.

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