Rick Perry: Social Security Is, In Fact, A Ponzi Scheme

August 29, 2011 8:30 a.m.

Sometimes campaign spin works to distance a candidate from his controversial past statements. And sometimes the candidate comes back and makes a hash of all the work his staff has done for him.

We could be witnessing the latter scenario when it comes to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and one of the nation’s most popular government programs. Last week, Perry’s campaign spokesperson took to the Wall Street Journal to help back Perry off the less election-friendly sections of his book, Fed Up!. That includes Perry’s suggestion that Social Security is an unconstitutional scheme which should be privatized post-haste.

Over the weekend, Perry walked all that back and fired off some more fiery rhetoric about the perils of the entitlement program that most Americans do not want to see changed.“It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people,” Perry said in Iowa, mimicking his pre-presidential campaign language on the subject of Social Security.

“The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie,” Perry added. “It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.”

Here’s video of the line, captured by ThinkProgress:

What’s more, Perry also said “I haven’t backed off anything in my book.” Not surprisingly, Democrats jumped all over the quotes, sending them out to reporters Monday.

Perry’s re-embrace of the Social Security-as-Ponzi scheme thing is likely to endear him further to the tea party types who already support his campaign in big numbers. But polls have shown even the tea party doesn’t want to see cuts to Social Security, showing just how dangerous grabbing onto this particular political third rail can be.

So Perry’s got a dilemma — does he stick to his guns on Fed Up!, giving him the sort of “genuine” cred conservative voters crave in a primary candidate? Or does he go the way his staff seems to be suggesting, which frees him from attack-ads-in-a-can like the Ponzi Scheme line? For now it looks like Perry’s more interested in staying “real” than becoming more electable.

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