President George W. Bush’s plan to partially privatize Social Security was “the right thing to do,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in an interview published Thursday in CNBC.com.
“Now, I also think you’ve got to give George W. Bush some real credit—he showed remarkable courage in the beginning of the second term taking on Social Security reform and personal accounts. It was the right thing to do. Sadly, congressional Republicans ran to the hills and abandoned him,” the 2016 presidential candidate told reporter John Harwood.
The polarizing tea party firebrand critiqued Bush — whose Justice Department he served in as an associate deputy attorney general — for overseeing the addition of trillions of dollars to the debt. While he disagreed with libertarians who want to phase out Social Security, he offered his own three-point plan to transform the popular retirement program for the elderly.
First, “no changes whatsoever” for those in or near retirement. Second, tie the growth of benefits to inflation (an apparent endorsement of a policy known as Chained CPI). “But the third piece, and it’s what Bush fought for, is personal accounts,” Cruz said. “I think it is transformative to allow younger workers to put a portion of their taxes into a personal account that they own, that they control, and that they can pass onto their heirs.”
Bush initiated his partial-privatization push in 2005 after winning reelection. Democrats vigorously opposed it and the unpopular plan failed to gain traction in the Republican Congress, marking a significant defeat for the ex-president.
Cruz wouldn’t say if Bush was right to establish the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, an expensive expansion of the program. He also declined to say if Ronald Reagan was right to try and kill Medicare in its cradle in the 1960s.
“It’s not worth tilting at windmills. I don’t know. I wasn’t alive then,” he told Harwood. “What I do know is that today, we have got to preserve and reform Medicare.”
Portions of the interview can be viewed below.