WASHINGTON -- Jeb Bush thinks the next president will need to privatize Social Security, he said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Tuesday -- acknowledging that his brother attempted to do so and failed. It’s a position sure to be attacked by both Republicans and Democrats.
Bush has previously said he would support raising the retirement age to get Social Security benefits, a common position among Republicans. And he backed a partial privatization that House Republicans have proposed that would allow people to choose private accounts.
The future of Social Security has become one of the most hotly contested issues in national politics, and both parties have accused the other of threatening its survival. Republicans argue that Democrats' refusal to change the program will lead to its bankruptcy. Democrats say privatization would kill the program and leave elderly Americans at the mercy of the stock market. Plus, any discussion of changing the system often creates fear in older Americans beyond or nearing the age of retirement, who also tend to vote in the greatest numbers.
Republicans have split on the answer to fix the program, which could begin to pay out more than it takes in as more baby boomers retire and younger generations aren’t able to pay enough into the system to keep it going. Understanding the fear privatization proposals create, some Republicans have argued that the retirement age should be increased or means-testing established instead. Many Democrats advocate raising the ceiling for the tax that funds it.
Speaking in Derry, New Hampshire, Tuesday, Bush acknowledged that when his brother President George W. Bush attempted to privatize Social Security in 2005, he met great bipartisan resistance.
“My brother tried, got totally wiped out,” Bush said. “Republicans and Democrats wanted nothing to do with it. The next president is going to have to try again.”
Bush also said Social Security shouldn’t be called an “entitlement.” “I’ve learned that in town hall meetings,” he said, according to a video released by the pro-Democratic group American Bridge. “It’s a supplemental retirement system that’s not actuarially sound, how about that. Medicaid and Medicare are entitlements, and they are growing at a far faster rate than anything else in government.”