Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain says it’s time to “wean” Americans off so-called “entitlement” spending and he favors changes in Social Security similar to those President Bush proposed, but was unable to push through congress.

“Please don’t call it privatization.  It is not privatization.  It is personalization.  It’s an account with the individual’s name on it,” Cain said today in Sioux Center. “It’s a personal retirement account option and you make that option available to people below a certain age. Over time, we wouuld wean ourself off a system that is clearly broken.” 

Cain, the former C.E.O. of Godfather’s Pizza, argued ever-expanding programs first designed to provide a “safety net” for the poor may soon compromise the financial stability of the federal government.  Cain pointed to Chile as an example of how Social Security might be reformed.

“In Chile, after three years 90 percent of the workers chose the personal retirement account option, while they still had to contribute to the old system for those people who could not afford to get off the old system,” Cain said in Sioux Center. “We must restructure that program.”   

Cain also expressed support for changing Medicare to a voucher system, an idea proposed by Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan, chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee.

“We must restructure Medicare, ala Representative Paul Ryan’s approach. We must restructure Medicaid, ala block grants — empower the states to decide how best to manage those funds rather than try to micromanage the rules out of Washington, D.C.,” Cain said. “So all of the programs must be restructured in order to help people help themselves and not try and provide micro-managed solutions out of Washington, D.C.”

Cain’s morning appearance in Sioux Center was part of the presidential lecture series hosted by The Family Leader.  Cain told the audience the American family is under attack, both morally and economically. “But the only way we’re going to fix that is to focus on the family and focus on fixing these things that are causing families to break up and stay apart,” Cain said. 

Cain is also scheduled to give lectures this afternoon in Pella and Iowa City.

(Reporting in Sioux Center by Doug Broek, KSOU/KIHK; reporting in Des Moines by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson.)