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September 08, 2011

On Social Security, Perry Needs to Balance Reform-Mindedness With Reassurance

This outstanding dating-site profile makes a similar guarantee very clear: "I will not murder you."

As NRO's Maggie Gallagher and our own JeffB. wrote, all of Perry's passion and emphasis was on not backing down from his Ponzi scheme statement. He offered a brief, throwaway statement that seniors over 55 (I think he said) would be taken care of with no changes. But he did not hit that line with any kind of passion or reassurance, the way you really need to when you're talking about making changes to a program that a lot of people rely on.

Gallagher writes further:

Twenty-five-year-olds do not vote on Social Security. Do you remember being 25? Old people vote on Social Security. A conservatism worthy of the name must demonstrate it cares about the government’s promise to these old people, who have no way to recuperate if the government fails to deliver.

David Freddoso similarly recommends a more conventional approach:

But as much as I like to hear a dose of the sharp truth, "Ponzi Scheme" is not the best way to discuss Social Security. Perry would do far better to do what other GOP pioneers in this area have done, and stick to the basics. First, emphasize that he won't mess with anyone over 55. Second, lay out ideas about what he wants to put in place for people my age. (The Chilean model, which Herman Cain invoked, is one of the best ideas for this, although there are others.) Perry should also avoid the trap George W. Bush fell into on Social Security. Don't talk about the system's solvency, but about all the wealth that it is locking up, never to be invested in American businesses. Talk about how those paying in could well end up passing a mere fraction of their lifelong contributions to their children. A modern, defined-contribution pension system could turn today's uneducated day-laborers into the parents of tomorrow's college-educated professionals.

It should be noted that Marco Rubio talks up reforms to entitlements, in retiree-heavy Florida, and yet won an election, easily. But Rubio had a much more reassuring pitch, closer to what Gallagher and Freddoso advise for Perry.

There may be a reason Perry has no passion in offering reassurances on this: It's possible he is a complete true-believer in the 10th Amendment (stronger form), and doesn't just dabble in it when convenient. From his language in FED Up! (at least the language I've seen endlessly excerpted), he does seem to think the program went wrong from the start.

So it's possible he can't offer some kind of stronger reassurance, because he just thinks the program is unconstitutional, and further -- and this is the important part -- is determined to act upon that belief.

I hope that's not really the case. And I know at this point we now will have another discussion of pragmatism versus purity. But let's just skip that and incorporate by reference all the previous arguments about it.

The Other View: A smattering of folks think Perry exceeded expectations and won the debate. Rich Lowry seems to be in that camp, praising Perry's bluntness.

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posted by Ace at 11:52 AM

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