Mitt Romney’s Flip-Flop On Social Security

For politicians who are primarily concerned with taking down the front runner to improve their chances, the obvious move by Mitt Romney (and Michele Bachmann) is to attack Rick Perry’s stance on Social Security. For Romney, the political expedient path is to be expected but, as on so many other issues, he is running into problems reconciling what he is saying today with what he said in the past.

The Weekly Standard, via National Review, found that Romney, as well as Perry, has problems if anyone actually reads his book:

[I]n his book “No Apology: The Case For American Greatness”, which was published just last year, Romney compared those managing Social Security to criminals, saying:

“Let’s look at what would happen if someone in the private sector did a similar thing. Suppose two grandparents created a trust fund, appointed a bank as trustee, and instructed the bank to invest the proceeds of the trust fund so as to provide for their grandchildren’s education. Suppose further that the bank used the proceeds for its own purposes, so that when the grandchildren turned eighteen, there was no money for them to go to college. What would happen to the bankers responsible for misusing the money? They would go to jail. But what has happened to the people responsible for the looming bankruptcy of Social Security? They keep returning to Congress every two years.” [Emphasis in McCormack’s post.]

While we agree that Romney is flip-flopping for political gain, I would disagree with the interpretation from both Romney and National Review, which does believe that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. Yes, it is true that if someone conducted business in the same way that Social Security is done they would go to jail. However government and business are two totally different things. It is far different for government to tax in perpetuity to keep Social Security afloat than for a private investment vehicle to sell investments requiring an  ever growing number of private investors to go along with the deal. Of course it is also common on the right to greatly exaggerate any problems with Social Security to justify their belief that government can do nothing of value.

Social Security is hardly unique in including activities which would be illegal outside of government. Private individuals who engaged in actions routinely performed by the military would also be breaking law. Taxation would be theft in private hands.

Government and business cannot be compared in this nature, with government having considerably different powers than we would grant to a private organization without accountability to the public. This is why we have a system in which governmental actions are both legislated and executed by those who have been elected by majority rule, with checks and balances on their powers. Unfortunately the anti-government philosophy of the right wing has blinded them to the reasons why we have government and how it is different from private organizations, leading to mistaken beliefs of this type regarding Social Security (as well as some actually believing that taxation is theft).

Update: I didn’t have time to watch Monday’s debate, but as I start to check up on what occurred, I see that Perry did point out Romney’s previous position.

Romney’s attempts to portray himself as a defender of Social Security are also contradicted by his previous support for privatization.

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