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Romney no friend of Social Security

Last modified: 9/23/2011 12:00:00 AM
In recent days, Mitt Romney has been test driving the latest reinvention of his political persona, seeking to improve his electoral odds. Over the course of Romney's many political campaigns, he's gone from being a champion of abortion rights and the founding father of President Obama's health care plan to pledging his allegiance to the Tea Party. The only thing that Romney's consistent about is his own unflinching ability to change his positions with the political winds.

His latest reinvention, feigning a defense of the Social Security program created by my grandfather, President Franklin Roosevelt, is just another example of Romney putting political calculations first. Romney is only concerned with taking down his opponent of the moment, not with standing up for a critical program that has helped ensure that three generations of Americans have been able to retire in comfort and dignity.

When George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005, Romney called the plan something 'that works.' In his most recent book, he further defended Social Security privatization, which would have paved the way for Social Security funds to be invested in Wall Street. He said the American people have been defrauded out of their Social Security, and he likened the management of the program to illegal activity.

Rick Perry may think that Social Security is an unconstitutional Ponzi scheme, but Romney thinks it's a fraud and that privatizing it so your retirement could be gambled away on Wall Street is the solution. Simply put, Perry wants to destroy Social Security while Romney wants to dismantle it. Romney's position is every bit as dangerous to the future of Social Security as Perry's.

In 2008, trillions of dollars of wealth was destroyed when the stock market crashed. Can you imagine what the impact would have been if folks had all of their retirement income pegged to the market?

Romney's vision for Social Security is not the program that millions of Americans currently enjoy, and it is not the program my grandfather envisioned when he signed the Social Security Act into law more than 75 years ago as part of the New Deal. He envisioned a program of guaranteed benefits that would provide benefits for retirees regardless of the economy or the stock market.

And despite the claims of Romney, Perry and the Tea Party, the fact is that Social Security is completely solvent today and will continue to be so, because it has a dedicated income stream that covers its costs and consistently generates a robust surplus. Social Security has the resources it needs for decades to come.

The Republicans' plan to 'save' Social Security would mean the end of the program as it currently exists. Today, more than 50 million Americans receive guaranteed Social Security benefits each and every month. No other program in American history has touched as many lives and no other program has helped as many families, or brought as much financial stability to households in every corner of the country.

There's an old saying: with friends like these, who needs enemies? If Mitt Romney considers himself a friend of Social Security, I shudder to think about what an enemy must look like.

(James Roosevelt Jr. is the grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former associate commissioner for retirement policy at the Social Security Administration, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan and a member of the Democratic National Committee.)


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