Having trouble keeping track of the numerous Republican candidates and their positions on the major issues of the day? Well, you are not alone. Since everything appears to be about Donald Trump and what he says, or doesn't say, the various candidates positions on many issues appears to be getting lost in the shuffle even as more and more TV time is being dedicated to hearing them speak. A three hour debate...really?
In an effort to simplify the candidates positions regarding what should be done about social security, if anything, here's a short "cheat sheet" which you may find helpful until the candidates refine and finalize their positions on this matter:
DONALD TRUMP: Keep social security as is.
CARLY FIORINA: Increase FRA (to what exactly is unclear).
BEN CARSON: Requests that you should "voluntarily" opt out of social security if you don't need the money.
MARCO RUBIO: Increase FRA by one year and grow benefits more slowly.
JEB BUSH: Increase Full Retirement Age (FRA) possibly up to age 70.
TED CRUZ: Increase FRA, cut cost of living adjustments and partially privatize social security (i.e. allow workers to control their own retirement funds through personal investment accounts).
MIKE HUCKABEE: Keep social security as is.
RAND PAUL: Increase FRA to age 70 and means test benefits.
CHRIS CHRISTIE: Increase FRA to 69 and means-test benefits.
JOHN KASICH: Partially privatize social security.
LINDSEY GRAHAM: Increase FRA to age 70 and cut benefits for some.
BOBBY JINDAL: Partially privatize social security.
GEORGE PATAKI: Increase FRA.
JIM GILMORE: Cap benefits; possibly privatize social security.
RICK SANTORUM: Privatize social security, increase FRA and means test benefits.
SCOTT WALKER: Increase FRA.
To briefly sum up, it appears that all these candidates, except for Trump, Hukabee and Carson, favors either raising the FRA or partially privatizing social security. Ironically, these positions are not desired by rank and file Republicans. Recent polling shows 62% of Republicans favor "increasing" social security benefits and 74% are willing to preserve social security even if it means raising taxes. In fact, only 26% of Republicans favor increasing the FRA to age 70.
Clearly, whether you are a Republican or Democrat, any proposed changes to social security will come with much heated debate, especially for those voters who are nearing retirement. Change is slow and difficult to come by in Washington. But as millions of Americans grow older and face the challenges of financing what could amount to a 20-30 year retirement period, any reduction to social security benefits could have a material if not devastating effect on one's retirement. Perhaps creativity and compromise could provide the foundation for the continuation of this much valued and desired entitlement program.