Romney Tweaks The Ryan Budget: Cut Social Security Benefits, Privatize Medicare (VIDEO)

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Mitt Romney caught a lot of heat Tuesday for his comments about foreclosures. But in the same interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, he outlined a plan for the country’s future that would please Paul Ryan, and conservatives hell bent on rolling back the social safety net.

Without noting that Social Security has been in good shape for about 20 years, Romney proposed making it solvent in the long term through a mix of benefit cuts, taking the option of imposing payroll taxes on higher-income earners off the table completely.

“Arithmetically, there are probably three ways of making Social Security permanently solvent,” Romney said. “One would be simply raising taxes. I don’t favor that one. Number two would be to increase the retirement age. Number three would be to have a little slower growth in benefits for higher income beneficiaries…. Some combination of those last two is the place we can go in my opinion to solve Social Security for future retirees.”His proposal for Medicare, which he and other Republicans have nodded at in the past, would mimic the GOP budget plan. It would provide future seniors vouchers to buy private insurance, while at the same time preserving traditional Medicare as an option. This type of approach has been adopted by one independent fiscal commission this year (the Domenici-Rivlin proposal), but it dates back to the 1990s when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich embraced it as a way to put traditional Medicare on the path to extinction — or as he put it to “wither on the vine and die.”

“You have a program like Paul Ryan has proposed which says we’re going to give people vouchers to let them chose among private plans,” Romney said. “I think that has a good deal of merit. I would not at the same time want to remove the option from people to have standard Medicare. But I would probably move toward a more managed care approach even in Medicare itself.”

Elsewhere, Romney would turn Medicaid into a block grant program, and hand it over to states to make their own plans; phase out 10 percent of federal jobs; reduce discretionary spending on all other non-defense programs to the levels they were at in 2008, and undermine collective bargaining by federal unions with the stated goal of diminishing their benefits.

It’s a fairly close approximation of the controversial GOP budget, with Social Security cuts thrown in on top.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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