The Republican presidential primary is heating up, with five candidates clashing over a number of issues during the third GOP debate on Wednesday night.
The presidential hopefuls were fiercely divided over whether to raise the retirement age for Social Security recipients in order to preserve the retirement income program.
That’s because the Social Security retirement fund could run out of money as soon as 2033, a year earlier than previously projected, according to the most recent findings published by the Social Security and Medicare Trustees.
Unless major changes are made before 2034 to shore up the entitlement program, more than 66 million Americans would see a benefit reduction between about 23% to 25%.
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The future of the program has emerged as a contentious issue between Republicans and Democrats after President Biden accused GOP lawmakers of wanting to slash funding for Medicare and Social Security during his State of the Union Address this year.
Republicans have repeatedly pushed back on that assertion by insisting they do not want to cut funding for either of the entitlement programs.
Here is where some of the contenders stand on the matter.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – whose state is a top destination for older Americans – argued that retirees often depend on Social Security to make ends meet, particularly in the current era of still-high inflation.
“I’d say to seniors in America: Promise made, promise kept,” DeSantis said. “I understand what you’re going through with the rising prices, and you need that Social Security check.”
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He also pointed to the falling U.S. life expectancy and suggested that it would be counterintuitive to raise the age limit for collecting Social Security when Americans are increasingly dying at younger ages.
“When life expectancy is declining, I don’t see how you could raise it the other direction,” he said.
During the debate in Miami, Vivek Ramaswamy – the “anti-woke” businessman – did not say whether he supports raising the retirement age for Social Security recipients.
But he suggested that his plan to reduce spending by cutting or eliminating federal agencies would help to keep Social Security solvent.
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Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley voiced support for raising the retirement age for younger workers who are currently in their 20s – and called for eliminating benefits for wealthy Americans.
“Any candidate that tells you that they’re not going to take on entitlements is not being serious,” she said. “Social Security will go bankrupt in 10 years; Medicare will go bankrupt in eight. Right now, you have Ron and Trump joining Biden and Pelosi saying they’re not going to change or do any sort of entitlement reform.”
Retirees can start drawing Social Security at 62, although they do not receive full benefits until they are 67. Raising the age limit would help to preserve the fund for longer.
Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina pushed back against the notion that the age to collect Social Security benefits should be increased.
Instead, he said the U.S. needs to “grow our economy and cut our spending” by reducing taxes and creating new jobs – not by “picking on seniors who have paid into a program, who deserve their money coming back into them.”
“Let me just say, to my mama and to every other mama or grandfather receiving Social Security, as president of the United States, I will protect your Social Security,” he added.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would raise the retirement age for young workers currently in their 30s and 40s – a change that he noted would affect his 30-year-old son.
“I have a son who’s in the audience tonight who’s 30 years old,” Christie said. “If he can’t adjust to a few-year increase in Social Security retirement age over the next 40 years, I got bigger problems with him than his Social Security payments. The fact is, we need to be realistic about this.”
Christie also suggested there should be some sort of income test that determines who receives Social Security, arguing that ultra-wealthy Americans should not collect those retirement benefits.
“I don’t know if Warren Buffett is collecting Social Security,” he said. “But if he is, shame on you; you shouldn’t be taking the money.”