Michele Bachmann has been called a “bomb-thrower” before — she’s not exactly known for her diplomacy — but, when it comes to Social Security, she says no need exists to scare people with extreme rhetoric. Is that a reference to Rick Perry’s refreshing talk of monstrous lies and Ponzi schemes? Sure — but Bachmann also skillfully made it about the president.
O. Kay Henderson of Radio Iowa reports:
Without naming competitor Rick Perry (although I did in the questions), Bachmann said federal policymakers have to “keep faith” with current Social Security beneficiaries. ”That’s wrong for any candidate to make senior citizens believe that they should be nervous about something they have come to count on. We need not do that, but I think at the same time we also outline our positive solutions,” Bachmann said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.” …
My direction question to her was this: ”Do you think your party needs to be equally careful in its messaging on Social Security? Using phrases like ‘monstrous lie’ — do you think that is good messaging?”
“I think that it is not good when President Obama, for instance, made the comment — recklessly, in my opinion — that seniors may not get their Social Security checks in August when we were dealing with the debt ceiling debate,” Bachmann said. “That was irresponsible for the president to do that. He created a great deal of fear.
As Politico’s Alexander Burns relays, Bachmann wasn’t the only candidate (Newt, too!) to add to the growing chorus about Social Security — a chorus that says Social Security is firmly established and not a program Republicans can talk recklessly about abolishing (which Perry has not done) or reforming (which he has done) without facing some kind of political fallout. Burns puts it this way:
Perry has actually used similar language to explain that despite his criticism of Social Security’s creation in the New Deal era, he intends to focus on the challenge of how to make the program solvent now. But the fact that new candidates are coming off the sidelines to defend Social Security suggests that Romney isn’t the only one who sees Perry’s stance on the program as a political loser.
It’s helpful to remember that Democrats, too, are vulnerable on entitlements. That is, as Bachmann pointed out, when the president makes it apparent that he’s willing to use Social Security to score political points, he reveals his relative indifference to the actual solvency of the program. (After all, if he cared about that, he would make good on his talk of entitlement reform and work to actually accomplish it!) And as more and more Americans learn the facts about entitlement programs — and Perry’s shockingly true statements about the Ponzi scheme structure of SS will go a long way to ensure they do — they’ll realize to just what extent Dems do just use entitlements to score political points. The choice, as has been said, is not between entitlement programs as we know them now or reformed programs. The choice is between no programs (thanks to impending insolvency!) or reformed programs. Entitlement reform has never been a winning platform, but it should be and Perry — with the shield of the Texas miracle — just might be the candidate to make it be.