Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are far from the only Republicans who consider Social Security to be a Ponzi scheme. Many conservative writers, such as Charles Krauthammer are making the same flawed argument, confusing tax-supported government programs with actions which are allowable in the private sector, and ignoring the possibility of changing with changing conditions. Mona Charen has a column showing that Mitch Daniels has also called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, but this should cause no surprise . The echo chamber of the right wing noise machine has claimed this so often that, like a long list of other fallacies, it is very widely believed to be true on the right.
Opposition to Social Security will hurt the Republicans in the general election, a fact which is more important than polls taken today, but it might not hurt candidates for the Republican nomination. This is demonstrated in a new Gallup poll:
Texas Gov. and presidential candidate Rick Perry’s comments on Social Security, which include calling it a “Ponzi scheme,” appear to be a non-issue for most Republicans. However, they could cost him support with independents should he ultimately win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. As many Republicans say they are more likely to vote for Perry for president because of his views on Social Security as say they are less likely — 19% each. Among independents, 12% are more likely to vote for him and 32% less likely…
Perry’s decision to critique the financing structure of Social Security in stronger terms than are typically heard from most presidential candidates may not be risky within Republican circles. As many Republicans say they are more likely to support Perry as a result as say they are less likely, with most indicating it won’t make a difference. However, independents view his comments more negatively and, in line with Romney’s argument that this makes Perry unelectable, nearly 4 in 10 Republicans agree it could hurt Perry in a general election.
Tactically speaking, Perry might benefit in the short term by playing to the large minority of Republicans who favor more radical changes to the system. That could help him consolidate conservative support, further squeezing out Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and others. But as the Republican presidential field is winnowed during the primaries — and particularly if it is reduced to just Perry and Romney — this controversy could complicate Perry’s chance of winning the nomination and, ultimately, the general election.
Most Americans understand what a major success Social Security has been to provide financial assistance for the elderly and disabled and would not want to see this program destroyed. The views which gain support from the extremists who dominate the Republican primaries will be rejected by a large majority of Americans.