Newspaper column: Which Senate candidate is correct on handling Social Security?

Heck and Cortez Masto

The race to replace Harry Reid in the Senate is one of the most closely watched and highly contested elections in the nation this year. The most recent poll has Republican Rep. Joe Heck leading Reid’s hand-picked Democratic opponent, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, by 3 points — 38 percent to 35 percent with the substantial remainder undecided.

More than $11 million dollars has been spent by outside organizations on this race, the fourth highest in the nation, according to OpenSecrets.org.

On almost every issue the two candidates take opposing stances, but perhaps the most contentious is what to do about Social Security.

Cortez Masto has latched onto a comment then-freshman Congressman Heck made during a meeting with constituents five years ago in which he called Social Security a “pyramid scheme” in which “the people after you are paying for your benefits.”

She has accused Heck of wanting to privatize Social Security to benefit big banks and Wall Street.

“Congressman Heck’s Washington handlers did more contortions than an Olympic gymnast in trying to defend his record of putting Wall Street and the Big Banks ahead of Nevada families,” Zach Hudson, spokesperson for the Cortez Masto campaign said in a recent press release. “First Congressman Heck’s handlers falsely say he does not support the privatization of Social Security — then they immediately say he does support putting the retirement security of Nevada seniors in the hands of Wall Street.”

What Heck has suggested is allowing younger workers to have the option of privately investing some portion of the money that currently is deducted from their paychecks for Social Security.

Heck’s campaign argues that he is “the only candidate in the race for U.S. Senate who is willing to heed the warnings being issued by the Medicare and Social Security trustees. Those warnings are clear: Medicare and Social Security, upon which thousands of Nevada seniors rely, are not on sound financial footing and need to be strengthened if they are to provide the health and income security our seniors deserve. Ignoring those challenges, which would be Ms. Cortez Masto’s approach, will result in benefit cuts and uncertainty for those near retirement age.”

A Democratic super PAC recently spent $900,000 on commercials attacking Heck’s stance on Social Security.

In the middle of this contretemps, Reid himself put out a press release a week ago on the 81st anniversary of the creation of Social Security praising the program for “providing millions with the economic security they have earned and deserve.”

Reid fulminated, “Unfortunately, despite decades of success, many Republicans continue to threaten the future of Social Security. Republican leaders routinely exaggerate the financial challenges facing the program in an effort to create a false sense of crisis. … I have spent my career fending off attacks against Social Security.”

This is the same Reid who earlier in his career took to the floor of the Senate on Oct. 9, 1990, standing next to a sign emblazoned in red letters with the word “embezzlement.”

“It is time for Congress, I think, to take its hands — and I add the president in on that — off the Social Security surpluses. Stop hiding the horrible truth of the fiscal irresponsibility that we have talked about here the past two weeks. It is time to return those dollars to the hands of those who earned them — the Social Security beneficiaries and future beneficiaries. …” Reid ranted. “I think that is a very good illustration of what I was talking about, embezzlement, thievery.”

Nothing has changed in the past 26 years except Reid’s politics.

In fact, the Social Security Board of Trustees in its 2016 annual report states that Social Security reserves will be depleted in 2034, after which there will be sufficient funds to pay only three-quarters of scheduled benefits.

As for the argument that private investments are too risky, Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes that if workers who retired in 2011 had been allowed to invest just half of their payroll tax deductions they would have retired with more income than they are getting under Social Security and, even under the worst-case scenario,  their benefits would equal traditional Social Security payouts.

“With Social Security already running a cashflow deficit today — and facing a $21 trillion shortfall in the future that will make it impossible to pay promised benefits — private investment and personal accounts should be part of any discussion about reforming the troubled system,” Tanner advocates.

Sounds like what Heck proposes.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

22 comments on “Newspaper column: Which Senate candidate is correct on handling Social Security?

  1. Rincon says:

    “What Heck has suggested is allowing younger workers to have the option of privately investing some portion of the money that currently is deducted from their paychecks for Social Security.”

    This would leave the inevitably huge number of people who blow their investments unable to support themselves, thus eliminating the function of Social Security. People are free to invest their take home pay.

  2. Steve says:

    401k, IRA SEP-IRA, PERS and several more investment options all invest pre-tax…but you knew that Rincon, right?

  3. Pyramid scheme or investment?

  4. This is another case of progressive leftist Democrats doing what Democrats do best…trying to scare and misinform the elderly (or as I prefer…seasoned citizens). It’s a scam, but with the assistance of the lapdog, leg humping praetorian guard media…they are able to obfuscate this sensitive issue. It stinks to high heaven!

  5. Steve says:

    Make Social Security what it was stated to be, the safety net for people who failed to save for their own retirements due to no fault of their own.
    It will take several generations to achieve, but is a far better way to insure retirement and prod those people into saving, who don’t pay attention now.

  6. Barbara says:

    So Rincon, you believe the government is a better steward of your money than you are? Or do you exempt yourself as being smarter than most people?

  7. Patrick says:

    If people were such good stewards of their money, why were so many elderly people destitute in their old age before social security was enacted?

  8. Rincon says:

    The question Conservatives consistently fail to answer is what to do with the large number of people who will fail to invest and save properly under your proposed programs. Welfare? Come to think of it, would it not be reasonable to require Social Security to invest in a diversified portfolio instead of dismantling it? This would bring its returns into line with those available in the private sector and have the advantage that no one would ever have to worry about running out of principal if they live too long. It would also eliminate the problem of the ignorant mismanaging their portfolio.

  9. Steve says:

    See that? The answer, according to Rincon (and, maybe, liberals in general) is to take away all control from individuals, in favor of a “commune”ity of “betters” who will dole out the “benefits” as they see fit.

    I hope you enjoy your 30 scrip a week, Rincon.

  10. Patrick says:

    Rincon:

    Republicans have addressed very clearly what they would do with the poor (elderly or not) and their answer is that they would leave them to their own devices.

    Which of course puts the country back to where we were before social programs like Social Security were passed by a democratic legislators and executives.

    It’s a sad commentary when the interests of a very few multibillionaires in this country, are ALWAYS put before the interests of hundreds of millions of American citizens but that is just the way it is when it comes to republican lawmakers.

  11. Steve says:

    Social Security was passed by a wide margin of both parties in power at the time.
    As usual, Patrick is being obstreperous..

  12. Rincon says:

    Funny, I just used that same word to describe you, Steve. That was before I saw this post. Odd coincidence. I suppose many of us are considered obstreperous by our sparring partners. Part of human nature.

  13. Patrick says:

    Rincon:

    Only you used the word properly, and Steve didn’t.

  14. Steve says:

    When all one has is attack, one has nothing.

  15. Rincon says:

    Don’t say that about yourself, Steve. You’re worthwhile, even if often wrong🙂

  16. Barbara says:

    Rincon and Patrick obviously feel they are superior to the “ignorant” masses. Typical of statist. Only they and their kind have the intelligence to control the lives of others to “save” them from their ignorance. Only they have compassion. Only they care about the “ignorant” masses. So typical.

  17. Steve says:

    It’s fun watching them twist and spin.

  18. […] two major party Senate candidates continue to parry and thrust over the issues — with Social Security as one of those — we might hear more about this weekend’s protests in Chile, where, in 1981, the nation […]

  19. Patrick says:

    Barbara while you were talking past me you probably missed the question I posed so let me try again:

    If people are such good stewards of their own money, why were so many of them destitute on their old age before Social Security was enacted?

  20. Rincon says:

    Barbara has apparently been taking lessons from Steve. You’re both pretty good character assassins, but a little weak in the debate department.

  21. Patrick says:

    Rincon:

    Agreed.

    It would be refreshing if instead of hiding behind questions like “do you think the government knows better….” That people on the right just come out and say look, whether individuals go broke and go hungry and die on the streets in their later years is no concern of mine and it damn sure shouldn’t be the concern of the government.

    At least (and at most in my opinion) it’s true to their beliefs. This politically correct crap about “who knows better how to spend an individuals money” is, particularly in the case of social security, so easily disproven that it bares naked their real political philosophy.

    I guess after so many years, of being told in a very loud political voice, by the entire country, that we LIKE Social Security just the way it is, that the opposition has learned to mince their words.

  22. Steve says:

    Oh, Rincon….if anyone is anything approaching “character” and “ASSassination” it’s definitely the sham king.

    laugh

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