A Trump-backed Arizona Senate candidate suggests he wants to privatize Social Security
- Arizona GOP primary Senate candidate Blake Masters wants to overhaul Social Security.
- "We got to cut the knot at some point," he said at a conservative event.
A Trump-backed Republican Senate candidate in Arizona suggested privatizing Social Security on Thursday, arguing the safety-net program will be long gone by the time he reaches retirement age.
"We got to cut the knot at some point though because I'll tell you what, I'm not going to receive Social Security," GOP Senate primary candidate Blake Masters said at a primary debate hosted by the conservative group FreedomWorks. "I'm a millennial."
—Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) June 24, 2022
Masters argued it was time to overhaul the popular program. "We need fresh and innovative thinking, maybe we should privatize Social Security," he said. "Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."
Social Security provides retirement monthly cash benefits to elderly and disabled people. For many years, Republicans advocated to slash spending on programs like Social Security and Medicare to rein in the national debt. But President Donald Trump prevailed on Republicans in 2016 to abandon that piece of their economic agenda and instead campaigned on preserving it, though he occasionally floated ideas jeopardizing the program's future.
Masters is floating a proposal that dealt a bruising political defeat to another Republican administration two decades ago. In early 2004, President George W. Bush embarked on a major push to privatize Social Security, laying out a plan for people to open their own private retirement accounts and providing the option to redirect payroll taxes into them.
"We should make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the American people," Bush said in his State of the Union address in January 2004.
But the effort backfired. Staunch Democratic resistance and internal Republican splits kept the Bush plan from advancing. It contributed to a steep slide for Bush's approval rating on Social Security.
"According to the Gallup organization, public disapproval of President Bush's handling of Social Security rose by 16 points from 48 to 64 percent–between his State of the Union address and June," governance expert William Galston wrote in a 2007 Brookings Institute blog post.
Masters, a venture capitalist, is among the most conservative candidates in the crowded Arizona GOP primary. He questioned the existence of a gender pay gap and blamed gun violence on Black people earlier this year. He has also promoted Trump's false claim that the 2020 election was rigged.
The winner of the Republican primary will face off against Sen. Mark Kelly, who is considered a vulnerable Democrat in the November midterms.
Masters recently grabbed a coveted endorsement from Trump and benefits from the strong financial support of tech billionaire and long-time business associate Peter Thiel. A Real Clear Politics average of polls show Masters taking a slight lead of five percentage points earlier this month.
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