President Obama has recently suggested that he could not guarantee that senior citizens will receive their social security checks if the debt ceiling is not raised. Fear mongering at both sides of the aisle has caused politicians to point fingers over the uncertainty of the debt ceiling negotiations and the ramifications it would cause on the economy, but because social security interests a key voting bloc, Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) took this as an opportunity to attack the President and take a position that he is not used to defending.
Leading a team of rookie Republican senators, Johnson drafted a letter that disapproved of Obama’s remarks and defended social security beneficiaries. The letter critically stated, “You have been engaged in political theater, demagoguery, and a dangerous game of political chicken. And now you are playing your trump card … threatening America’s most vulnerable citizens.”
With these new remarks Ron Johnson had turned from businessman to social worker.
Did Ron Johnson flip-flop? During his campaign he told supporters, contrary to supporting social security’s life, that he would keep some forms of privatization on the table.
Privatizing social security does not need to happen. Social Security has a $2.6 trillion surplus and is projected to pay 100 percent of its benefits until 2037. The principal problem with privatizing social security is that it presumes its failure. Proponents for privatization would state, “Because the government cannot guarantee that the elderly will keep receiving social security checks, they should have an option to invest privately.”
Informed voters need to examine the narrative: while it is true that the United States faces a budget deficit greater than $14 trillion, it is also worth mentioning that prior to President Bush we were not talking about privatizing social security, because back then, it was never a concern.
When President Bush took office in 2001, he inherited a $236 billion budget surplus, but after stripping the surplus with the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001 and 2003, and coupled with increased defense spending, he effectively managed to turn the surplus into a deficit. With consideration to the surplus generated by social security, Bush used his increased budget deficit to sell to the American public that the social security program was no longer working.
Fortunately for American tax payers, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects that if Congress lets the Bush Tax Cuts expire, the U.S. could have a balanced budget again in 2017.
With recent moves by Republicans to completely end the program in 1996, and provide a privatization option during the Bush Administration and again this year in 2011, it is certain that any Republican initiatives to protect social security are disingenuous at best. Republicans are interested in receiving campaign finance money, because privatizing it would generate increased profits for their donors at Wall Street at the cost of those who pay into it.
An issue that has long been defended and strengthened by Democrats, the social security issue should be at their backside. Whether or not Ron Johnson has changed his mind about privatizing social security remains to be seen.
 Ron Johnson, http://ronjohnson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=05622a8d-abe4-4f56-a7bb-48ce132f86a7
 Don Walker, “Johnson, Feingold clash in first Senate debate: Candidates differ on stem cell research, climate change,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, (October 8, 2010), http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/104616734.html
 Social Security Online, “Social Security Income, Outgo, and Assets,” http://www.ssa.gov/oact/progdata/assets.html
 U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget Outlook,” http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=2727&type=0&sequence=2
 U.S. Congressional Budget Office, “CBO’s 2011 Long-Term Budget Outlook,” http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/122xx/doc12212/06-21-Long-Term_Budget_Outlook.pdf
 Social Security Online, “Vote Tallies: 1996 Welfare Amendments,” http://www.ssa.gov/history/tally1996.html
 Benjy, Sarlin, “GOP Congressman Ditches Social Security Privatization Bill,” http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/07/gop-congressman-ditches-social-security-privatization-bill.php