November 23, 2014

Ernst against raising retirement age for Social Security, but ‘privatizing’ an option

Joni Ernst (file photo)

Joni Ernst (file photo)

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, says Social Security and Medicare are going bankrupt and policymakers should “identify solutions” to fix the problem.

“We have to address the problem,” Ernst said this morning during an appearance at Wesley Acres, a retirement community in Des Moines. “What we can’t do is stick our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist, so we need to find solutions. We need to work together to solve them.”

However, Ernst is ruling out one idea as a solution.

“One thing my opponent has stated is that he would consider raising the age of retirement and, yes, that is an option,” Ernst said. “That is an option that’s out there but that’s not an option that I support.”

Her opponent is Democrat Bruce Braley, who has served in congress since 2007. During his first campaign in 2006 Braley told The Cedar Rapids Gazette raising the retirement age might be necessary. Two months ago The Daily Nonpareil reported that Braley opposes raising the retirement age, and believes eliminating the cap on how much income is subject to Social Security taxes would fix the system’s insolvency problem.

The average life expectancy in the U.S. has risen to 78 and some, like Republican Congressman Steve King, have suggested raising the retirement age to 70 to account for people living longer.

“How long are we expecting our older population to work before they’re able to retire?” Ernst asked today. “I don’t support that. We have made these promises. We need to keep them.”

Bob Meddaugh, a 67-year-old retiree sitting in the front row, asked Ernst why she thinks allowing younger workers to invest their own Social Security taxes might be a good option.

“What about the problems we’ve had when we’ve seen the stock market problems and people losing their 401Ks?” Meddaugh asked.

Ernst responded:”Yes, I have talked about privatizing Social Security as an option. Again, that is one solution, so what I recommend is we look at a number of solutions because we really don’t know which was is the best way to go yet.”

Another retiree in the audience asked Ernst if she’d support charging Social Security taxes on all income, so wealthy Americans would pay more into the system, and she said that could be an option, too, but she’s not ready to endorse the idea.

Braley’s campaign issued a statement accusing Ernst of trying to “hide her risky plans to privatize Social Security, end Medicare as we know it and gamble Iowans’ retirement savings on Wall Street.”