On a Denver radio program, “Kelley and Company” Wed., Rep. Mike Coffman called Social Security a Ponzi scheme and aligned himself with Gov. Rick Perry over Mitt Romney and other candidates in the race to be the GOP presidential nominee.
That’s news, if you ask me, especially the Ponzi scheme part, but it has yet to be picked up by other media outlets. I think Social Security is a hot topic, being the third rail of politics and all, but journalists could spice up this angle on the topic by interviewing Ponzi scheme experts, like Bernie Madoff. (Maybe not him, but his ilk.) Do they think Social Security is a Ponzi scheme?
Here’s what Coffman told Steve Kelley, host of “Kelley and Company,” on KNUS-710 AM:
I am obviously going to support whoever the nominee is. But I have to admit to you philosophically I am closer to Perry. Obviously, I hope he gets better on the debate stuff. I think he did good. I think he did better on Social Security. I think obviously it is a Ponzi scheme, but he has to say he is going to fix it. And he did that in the last debate where he didn’t do that in the first debate. Now I think that was positive. [BigMedia emphasis]
Listen to the audio clip here:
The trouble with Coffman’s statement is, obviously, that Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, and Kelley should have called him on this.
My online dictionary defines a Ponzi scheme as an “investment swindle in which supposed profits are paid to early investors from money actually invested by later participants.” Maybe that’s what Social Security sounds like to people who think government shouldn’t collect taxes and devise programs to help people, but if you’re not one of those people, you probably understand that Social Security is no swindle, but actually a successful government-run retirement system based on a funding formula that’s worked, with rational adjustments, for 76 years. It will continue to be a lifeline for many seniors for 25 more years with no changes at all. And with minor tweaks, it can be made to work indefinitely, as the LA Times pointed out Sunday in an editorial titled “Social Security Is No Ponzi Scheme.”
Why does Coffman think Social Security an investment swindle? Kelley should pose this question to Coffman next time he’s on his morning show. But it looks like Coffman is thinking less about Social Security and more about Rick Perry.
Coming before Thursday’s GOP presidential primary debate, Coffman may be illustrating that people (like him) believe in Perry so much that they’ll say that something (Social Security) is obviously something that it’s not (a Ponzi scheme) just to make it look normal for Perry to say it (when it’s not). And to help him connect with his core GOP audience.
Even while Gov. Mitt Romney has attacked Perry’s “Ponzi scheme” comments, he’s on record supporting the George Bush plan for partial Social Security privatization and has been attacked by Perry for likening the funding mechanisms of the program to “criminal” activity.
This sentiment against Social Security, if not the same phrasing, was echoed by Perry supporters, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who agreed with the arguments Perry was making while stopping short of going the Full Ponzi.
Further complicating the storyline for Romney are recent polling data showing that Republicans are just as likely to be attracted to Perry’s Ponzi Scheme message as they are to be turned away, and may in fact break his way in the context of a conservative primary electorate.
And just yesterday came reports in Politico that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, once a speculative candidate for president, came very close to the same wording in his upcoming book.
In Colorado Jane Norton did the same during her 2010 primary race against Ken Buck, but no one has resurrected this message at such a level in the presidential race.
In other words, the substance behind Rick Perry’s Ponzi scheme attack is in keeping with a broad range of Republican thinking. The question is whether his supporters will go once more into the Ponzi breach with him.
Coffman decided to do so.
Partial Transcript of KNUS morning radio program, “Kelley and Company,” Wed, Sept. 14, 2011.
KELLEY: Before we let you go, Congressman Coffman, the debate the other night I thought was excellent on CNN. It was a little more refined and a little opportunity to get a back and forth going. Of course Tim Pawlenty has backed Romney. Where do you stand right now, even 14 months out?
COFFMAN: I am obviously going to support whoever the nominee is. But I have to admit to you philosophically I am closer to Perry. Obviously, I hope he gets better on the debate stuff. I think he did good. I think he did better on Social Security. I think obviously it is a Ponzi scheme, but he has to say he is going to fix it. And he did that in the last debate where he didn’t do that in the first debate. Now I think that was positive. [BigMedia emphasis]
KELLEY: I see CNN really trying to blow up the HPV vaccination. The executive order he signed down in Texas. You don’t think that is going to haunt him?
COFFMAN: Not in the general election. I think it is certainly going to cost him some in the Republican primary. That is why I am interested in why CNN is weighing in on the issue. Because it is actually more a moderate position that he quite frankly took. I wouldn’t have done it. But that is probably more sympathetic with the general electorate than it is with a more conservative Republican primary voter.
KELLEY: With that, we thank you and will talk with you down the road, Congressman.