Some of the early criticism of former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s nascent presidential bid is that it is long on rhetoric and light on substance … an exercise in platitudinal identitypolitik.
In an effort to counter that perception, Haley is addressing one of the most critical issues facing the American Republic- the impending insolvency of its largest entitlement programs, Social Security and Medicare.
“The first thing you do is you change the retirement age of the young people coming up so that we can try and have some sort of system for them,” Haley recently told a town hall audience in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “It’s the new ones coming in. It’s those in their twenties that are coming in. You’re coming to them and you’re saying, the game has changed. We’re going to do this completely differently.”
“You reform the entitlements, but you do it in a way that you don’t take anything away from seniors or people who are getting ready to retire,” Haley added.
The current full retirement age for Social Security is 67. For Medicare, it is 65.
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In addition to raising both of those ages, Haley has suggested limiting or cutting Social Security and Medicaid benefits for wealthy Americans, saying “many of them will tell you they don’t even want it.”
To be clear: I have yet to see the Haley campaign’s full white paper on entitlement reform. I suspect there isn’t one yet, because she has yet to say what the new retirement age would be under her proposal.
Still, this is a discussion that must be had … and Haley deserves credit for engaging it in search of a solution.
“Doing nothing on Social Security and Medicare will lead to automatic benefit cuts,” noted Romina Boccia, director of budget and entitlements at the Cato Institute. “Reforming these major old-age entitlement programs is not an option; it’s an urgent necessity.”
According to Cato’s assessment of the latest Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, “federal health care programs and Social Security will be responsible for 60 percent of the growth in projected spending over the next decade.”
“The main drivers of rising deficits and debt are Social Security and Medicare,” noted Cato’s Chris Edwards. “The combined cost of the two programs for the elderly is projected to leap from $2.35 trillion in 2023 to $4.46 trillion by 2033. By then, spending on the two programs will be four times higher than spending on national defense.”
That’s trillions … with “T’s.” Nearly $29 trillion in total over the coming decade, in fact. And that’s in addition to soaring debt payments and all the non-entitlement profligacy emanating from Washington, D.C.
Do I trust Haley to be an honest broker on these vital solvency issues? Hell no … in fact my money is on her flaking. Also, next to chronic chameleon U.S. senator Lindsey Graham, Haley is the definition of opportunistic, hypocritical political shapeshifting – a definitional weather vane whose only conviction is her naked ambition.
Still, credit where credit is due: Haley’s willingness to at least discuss entitlement reforms stands in stark contrast to positions staked out by former U.S. president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis – both of whom are unwilling to even engage the issue in the context of their 2024 ambitions.
“We’re not going to mess with Social Security as Republicans,” DeSantis told Fox News last week. “I think that that’s pretty clear.”
“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny,” Trump said in a January 2023 campaign video.
Say what you will about Haley (and I’ve said plenty), but she gets points in my book for substantively raising this critical issue … and at least being open to reading the writing on the wall as it relates to the future of these two programs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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