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The 2008 Democratic Candidates on Social Security Issues

Questions on Benefits, Privatization, Solvency

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The 2008 Democratic Candidates on Social Security Issues
Updated September 26, 2007
The Democratic candidates in the 2008 presidential race have remained largely mum in public forums and debates about Social Security.

And frankly, it bothers me that Barack Obama, one of the frontrunners in the Democratic race, skipped out entirely on the AARP debate on September 20, 2007. Obama's absence made me wonder if his positions on retirement security are weak compared to those of the other leading candidates, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Bill Richardson.

The Social Security-related issues Democrats most care about are :

  • Do candidates pledge to not cut Social Security benefits?
  • Do candidates oppose privatization of Social Security accounts?
  • Do candidates plan to take steps to achieve long-term solvency?
For more info, see Common Sense Says No to Social Security Privatization: 17 Facts about Social Security.

For my curiosity, and your information, I've researched the sparsely-documented positions of the four Democratic frontrunners on these three Social Security-related questions.

HILLARY CLINTON (See Rating Hillary Clinton - Cumulative 2008 Scorecard)

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton told an AARP convention that, as president, she would move quickly to fix Social Security's long-term finances, but that cutting benefits or raising the eligibility age would be 'off the table.' " (Source - Wall Street Journal, Sept 8, 2007)

"The President’s proposal for private accounts would substitute Social Security’s long-standing promise of guaranteed, lifetime, inflation-protected benefits for benefits that would be tied to the fluctuations of the stock market.

"I oppose his idea to divert money from the Social Security program to establish private accounts. There are several key reasons why replacing Social Security with a privatized system would be harmful for Americans." (Source: The Senate website of Sen. Hillary Clinton)

Summary for Hillary Clinton on Social Security

  • Does she pledge to NOT cut Social Security benefits? YES
  • Does she oppose privatization of Social Security accounts? YES
  • Does she plan to take steps to achieve long-term solvency? YES
BARACK OBAMA (See Rating Barack Obama - Cumulative 2008 Scoreboard )

"As president, Barack Obama will protect and strengthen Social Security.

"Social Security is indispensable to our workers and our seniors. It is a great reflection of our values as a country. Barack Obama will make sure Social Security is solvent and viable for the American people, now and in the future. Two-thirds of beneficiaries depend on Social Security for more than half of their monthly income.

"Barack Obama fought against President Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security. As president, Obama will preserve Social Security by stopping any efforts to privatize it. Obama will work in a bipartisan way to maintain Social Security's solvency for future generations." (Source: Barack Obama '08 campaign website)

"Everything should be on the table. I think we should approach it the same way Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan did back in 1983. They came together. I don't want to lay out my preferences beforehand, but what I know is that Social Security is solvable. It is not as difficult a problem as we're going to have with Medicaid and Medicare." (Source: May 13, 2007 interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC This Week)

Summary for Barack Obama on Social Security

  • Does he pledge to NOT cut Social Security benefits? NO
  • Does he oppose privatization of Social Security accounts? YES
  • Does he plan to take steps to achieve long-term solvency? YES
JOHN EDWARDS(See Rating John Edwards - Cumulative 2008 Scoreboard )

"Edwards is committed to protecting Social Security. He has strongly opposed President Bush's efforts to privatize it, which would cut guaranteed benefits and risked individuals' retirements in the stock market.

"The financing of Social Security can only be solved by a package of reforms that has the support of both Democrats and Republicans. Edwards supports a successor to the Greenspan commission appointed in 1981, dedicated to finding a solution that is non-ideological, strongly bipartisan, and committed to the goals of ensuring every American can retire with dignity and extending the life of the Trust Fund." (Source: John Edwards for President campaign website)

"The answer is not to cut Social Security benefits for those who need them and depend on them. The answer instead is to stop tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans." (Source: John Edwards in a February 26, 2004 interview with John King, CNN Senior White House correspondent)

Summary for John Edwards on Social Security

  • Does he pledge to NOT cut Social Security benefits? YES
  • Does he oppose privatization of Social Security accounts? YES
  • Does he plan to take steps to achieve long-term solvency? YES
BILL RICHARDSON(See Rating Bill Richardson - Cumulative 2008 Scoreboard )

"Opposes Bush plan allowing workers to divert some Social Security payroll taxes into private retirement accounts." (Source - CNN Election Central for Bill Richardson)

At the CNN-YouTube Democratic debate on July 24, 2007, Gov. Richardson stated that the U.S. should "stop talking about privatization (of Social Security." (Source: YouTube video clip)

No mention is made at the Bill Richardson for President campaign website about preserving Social Security benefits, about privatization or about resolving long-term solvency of the program.

Summary for Bill Richardson on Social Security

  • Does he pledge to NOT cut Social Security benefits? NO
  • Does he oppose privatization of Social Security accounts? YES
  • Does he plan to take steps to achieve long-term solvency? NOT STATED

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