It seems the Social Security issue, specifically whether or not it is a fraud and a Ponzi Scheme, have become a decisive issue. People may choose to support Romney or Perry over their position on this issue.
First, background. Social Security is a disaster; the administrators already admit this. In terms of investment schemes, Social Security can only work when the economy and population is aggressively growing. In terms of freedom, Social Security is anti-freedom, enslaving the young to the old, and enslaving the old to the government.
I propose the wisest course of action is to immediately end the program, with the most preferable option being leaving everyone hanging but no one paying another dime into the system. Less preferable options are to write a fat check to those who are on Social Security or near it, or paying what was promised until they die, and ending collections immediately, drawing the funds from the general federal fund. Less preferable than that is any system which reforms Social Security making it stable, or turns it into a private investment fund. Least preferable is the Democratic plan, which is to do nothing and let it bankrupt.
Mitt Romney is positioning himself as an advocate of stabilization. Rick Perry has proposed eliminating the program alrogether, which I agree with more, but has now seemed to back away from that. (This is why I don’t like calling politicians flip-floppers; all must adapt and be open to changing their positions, even the ones I support.)
Mitt Romney attacked Perry in the debates not so much for his position on eliminating Social Security, but for his verbage and campaign rhetoric that would scare away potential voters. Romney explained what the message should be, a nice neutral yet hopeful message that advocates moderate reform to stabilize it.
I think that Perry missed the finer points of what Romney was saying, and that he does not deserve the nomination because of this. Perhaps Perry will realize it, but I worry that it is too late to correct the damage he has done to himself, and to a degree, the Republican Party.
In politics, you get a politician who stands up for what they believe in, and publicly defend their position despite apparent political opposition. This sometimes work. Sometimes the voters say, “Even though I disagree with him on this issue, I admire his courage and honesty.” More commonly, voters are willing to take the good with the bad, and stomach a vote. Also more commonly, voters will switch their vote.
I see evidence of the latter in a democratic voter I had a chance to discuss politics with. He was a fellow programmer, so we could reason logically and dispassionately about the topics. His only beef with the Republican Party is his view that we are a party of religious zealots who intend to impose our religion on others. He does not agree with hardly anything the democrats support, but he is fearful that the Republican Party, which he agrees with on almost every issue, is out to impose a theocracy. I guess it takes a special kind of person to support the Democratic Party.
Anyways, my point is this. While I want to see Social Security dismantled for the good of all, I do not believe that saying so on the campaign trail is wise because the people do not want it. If I were running for president, I would never say I want to dismantle Social Security, and true to my rhetoric, I would not do it, even if I were presented with an opportunity to do so. I would, however, use careful language and my power to influence the public to come to agree with my position, but, and this is important, without their consent and agreement, I would not act. On the other hand, if public sentiment shifted, for instance, the Democratic Party ran their congressional races on the issue of dismantling Social Security, and won, then I would work with them to dismantle Social Security, because the people obviously have changed their minds.
There are other, much more pressing issues than Social Security, making it, at best, a third-tier issue. On the top is the issue of economic freedom: should the federal government dictate every aspect of our lives through economic regulation, taxation, impossible schemes (Medicare) debt and spending, or should government be limited and small? Next is our security and foreign policy, which will likely become a huge issue as people realize what has really happened in the Middle East under Obama.
Romney is right on this, and he knows how to walk that tightrope line. I don’t know what Romney really wants, but it is apparent what he intends to do and say on the campaign trail.