October 21, 2015
Democrats – Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and the gang - are talking about making Social Security more generous, while Republicans, if they talk about the retirement program at all, say they want to cut benefits in the future. Chris Christie wants to raise the retirement age and change the indexing formula to reduce future benefits for those who paid in the most.
So Democrats are offering better Social Security, and Republicans are offering a deal to make it worse. This is a total political loser for the GOP. How many times do Republicans have to electrocute themselves by endorsing smaller benefits? Some of the bean counters think this is virtuous. But the economics is questionable here too.
Pro-growth Republicans should be talking about how to transition to optional, private IRA-type accounts for young workers. With a normal rate of return those workers would retire with much, much higher benefits.
Peter Ferrara of the Heartland Institute has calculated that the monthly benefit from a private account would be about double the benefit from Social Security, assuming promised benefits are paid.
Republican benefit cuts would make a bad deal for today's young people even worse. Moreover, the people who have paid the most into Social Security over their working years would get the biggest cut in benefits. How in the world is that "fair" or fiscally responsible?
To win millennial voters the GOP should offer the personal account option. The plan should also guarantee young people a benefit that is no lower than Social Security is promising so it will be a no-lose proposition for today's young workers.
Yes, George W. Bush tried this, and it didn't sell politically. That's why the guaranteed minimum benefit is crucial. What I can't understand is why Republicans say they can't offer private accounts for young workers, but they can offer young workers lower benefits in the future. Every time that has been tried following the Reagan years, it has led to big losses for Republicans.
Stephen Moore is a co-founder of the Committee to Unleash Prosperity.