Santorum: ‘You Either Care About Social Security and You Want to Fund It – Or You Don’t’

December 12, 2011 - 8:11 AM

Republicans Debate

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum takes part in the Republican debate, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(CNSNews.com) - While President Barack Obama blasts Republicans for trying to dismantle Social Security, he's the one who is defunding the program by insisting on an extension of the payroll tax cut, former Sen. Rick Santorum said at Saturday night's Republican debate.

"Is there a Social Security Trust Fund or not?" Santorum asked. "And is the Social Security system going to be funded by payroll taxes or not? And the president of the United States runs around and talks about how Republicans don't care about Social Security and how they're going to rip apart the Social Security system, and he's the one defunding the Social Security system."

Santorum said taking money away from Social Security -- through lower payroll taxes, which fund the system -- is not the way to fix it. President Obama says an extension of the payroll tax cut, which Congress must approve by Dec. 31 if it's going to happen, would add as much as $1,000 to the tax bill of middle-class workers.

"I'm all for tax cuts," Santoroum said, adding that he'd welcome a tax cut that would create growth in the economy. "But to take the Social Security Trust Fund that is -- that is so sacrosanct to the Democrats when it comes for election time; And then to use that as a tax and then try to beat up Republicans for-- for not supporting the tax cut is-- is absurd.

"You either care about Social Security and you want to fund it, or you don't."

Santorum, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry all oppose extending the payroll tax cut. The other three candidates taking part in Saturday night's debate on ABC – Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul -- support an extension of the payroll tax cut.

‘Moths and feathers’

Bachmann said the payroll tax should not have been cut in the first place. "I encouraged my colleagues not to go down this road," the congresswoman said. She called Obama's plan "a temporary gimmick," not the kind of permanent solution that the business community is looking for.

Bachmann noted that the payroll tax cut removed $111 billion from the Social Security Trust Fund. "This is a very real issue for senior citizens, because we have to pay the Social Security checks that are going out."

"We have candidates on this stage that are standing with Barack Obama on this issue," Bachmann said. But this year alone, it-- this will also cost the Social Security Trust Fund another $112 billion. And we don't have enough money this year in the Social Security Trust Fund to put out those checks -- which means we have to go to the General Treasury to get the money.

“And trust me, when you open the door to the General Treasury, the only thing that comes out are moths and feathers. There's nothing in there. So we have to recognize, we can't spend money that we don't have. And that's what Barack Obama's trying to do. Temporary gimmicks, not permanent solutions..."

‘Band-aid’

Romney said he doesn't like the idea of raising taxes on people -- especially on the middle class in the "Obama economy." He noted that extending the payroll tax cut is a "temporary" move that will "help people in a very difficult time."

"But let's recognize, this is just a Band-Aid," he said. Romney went on to criticize Obama for not advancing a plan to boost the economy.

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said he would extend the payroll tax cut "because if you don't, you raise the taxes. But I want to pay for it," he said. "And it's not that difficult. In my proposal, in my budget, I want to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from overseas. The (Social Security) trust fund is gone. But how are we going to restore it? We have to quit the spending. We have to quit this being the policemen of the world."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry were not given an opportunity at Saturday's debate to discuss the extension of the payroll tax cut, but Gingrich previously he has said opposes tax increases "in the middle of a depression.”

Perry was asked to address the payroll tax cut extension yesterday, on “Fox News Sunday.” He dismissed the idea of "temporary tax cuts that are going to temporarily stimulate."

"We are interested in creating a climate where people who have money can risk their capital. And it's not rich people. It's about small mom and pop businesses who are afraid because of Obamacare, afraid because of over-regulation, afraid because of over- taxation that come straight out of Washington, D.C., that they can't risk their capital. They can't create jobs that in turn will create the wealth. That's what we need to be focused (on)."

‘Fairness’

President Obama has pressed Congress for weeks to extend the payroll tax cut, casting it as an issue of "fairness." He and other Democrats insist that the cut should be paid for with higher taxes on the wealthy.

Most recently, in his Saturday radio address, the president told congressional Republicans "to stop the games and extend the payroll tax cut for working Americans. Because if they don’t, nearly 160 million Americans will see their taxes go up at the end of this month.

"Congress can’t end the year by taking money out of the pockets of working Americans," Obama said. "Now is not the time for playing politics. Now is the time to do what’s right for the American people," he added.

In the weekly Republican radio address, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said President Obama wants to extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits because Obama's 2009 stimulus plan didn't work:

The House will pass the payroll tax cut extension this week, Boehner said: "To help Americans who are struggling in the current economy, we will act on a jobs bill that extends payroll tax relief, extends and reforms unemployment benefits, and cuts government spending." But, Boehner added, "There will be no tax hikes on America’s job creators."

Boehner said the bill extending the payroll tax cut will include a "bipartisan provision that supports the job-creating Keystone" oil pipeline project.

"You’ve heard President Obama say the American people ‘can’t wait’ to take action on jobs.  Well, the Keystone project is the very definition of an idea the American people can’t wait for Washington to take action on,” Boehner said.

President Obama has flatly refused to accept a deal that ties the payroll tax cut extension to the Keystone XL pipeline.

"This is no time for the same-old my-way-or-the-highway theatrics," Boehner said.

"There’s bipartisan support for extending payroll tax relief and unemployment benefits.  There’s bipartisan support for tax incentives that allow employers to invest and expand.  And there’s bipartisan support for the Keystone energy project.  We should get these things done."