Ted Cruz Advocates 'Commonsense Reforms' to Social Security

By Susan Jones | June 5, 2015 | 6:35 AM EDT

Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks at a Republican gathering in Lincoln, N.H., on Sunday, March 15, 2015. (Caledonian-Record/AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - "If I'm elected in November 2016, I hope to lead the effort to...preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for decades going forward," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Thursday.

"I'm 44. It's hard to find someone my generation who believes Social Security will be there for them. And I think that gives us an opportunity for commonsense reforms," Cruz said.

"The reforms I would like to see -- and I'm campaigning on fundamental reform to preserve entitlements. We ought to gradually increase the retirement age. We ought to change the rate of increase in benefits so that it matches inflation, rather than exceeding inflation." He said both of those reforms would apply to "younger workers -- people my age."

"And third -- and this is critical -- we ought to allow younger workers to keep a portion of their tax payments in a personal account that they own, that they control, that can grow at market rates, and that they can pass on to their kids and grandkids. That's the kind of bipartisan leadership we need. And it's what, if I'm elected in November 2016, I hope to lead the effort to make it happen and preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for decades going forward."

Cruz's call for allowing younger workers to set up personal retirement accounts was unsuccessfully advocated by former President George W. Bush when he ran for president in 2000.

Bush's brother Jeb -- who is expected to announce his run for president later this month -- has a much different plan.

Jeb Bush said he would consider pushing back the Social Security retirement age by as many as five years and scaling back benefits for Americans who paid into the system but who also have accumulated wealth.

"We need to look over the horizon and begin to phase in, over an extended period of time, going from (age) 65 to 68 or 70. And that by itself will help sustain the retirement system for anybody under the age of 40," Bush, a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination, told CBS's "Face the Nation" on May 31.

Jeb Bush said "for sure," he would consider means-testing -- phasing out benefits for higher earners, who have paid into the system for their entire working lives.

Sens. Rand Paul (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also advocate some form of means-testing for wealthier seniors and raising the retirement age for younger workers.

In addition, Rubio would give Americanas without access to an employer sponsored retirement plan the option of enrolling in the federal Thirft Savings Plan, used by members of Congress. And Rubio would eliminate the 12.4% Social Security payroll tax for all individuals who continue working after reaching retirement age.

In 2013, Gov. Scott Walker told Bloomberg News that said he advocates "some sort of entitlement reform," but he hasn't explained in detail what that means.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also running for the Republican nomination, recently said the only way to reform Social Security "is to hurt somebody."

"I understand the program has some real fiscal problems, but why would you punish the recipients who played by the rules that they were forced to play by?" he asked.

Speaking on CBS's "Face the Nation" on May 10, Huckabee said,"Reforms don't mean you are going to start cutting peoples' benefits or changing the rules and say instead of 65 (the retirement age) is going to be 75.

"If you want to go back and say, look, for those of you who are fourteen years old and you are just starting the workforce, you're getting ready to go into your first job, look, we're going to make some changes because the actuarial schedules upon which Social Security and Medicare were based have drastically changed.

"But about the only way we can really make these reforms is to hurt somebody. I don't think Americans believe that after having paid in all these years, again, not a choice, it wasn't voluntary, it was forced out of their checks, that somehow the government who didn't take good care of business can come in and say, yep, we are going you make you end up paying for our sins."