A Republican House candidate in Florida wants senior citizens to share the burden of reducing the national budget deficit through cuts to Social Security benefits.
"My number one priority would be to cut spending, turn off the spigot. We can do that, and the way we would do that is to roll back the budget to 2007," said Daniel Webster during a Tea Party forum for Republican candidates gunning for firebrand Democrat Alan Grayson's job.
"Just three years ago, if we would take that budget and pass it today just as it was, does it roll back some salary increases? Yes," Webster continued. "Does it get rid of TARP and health care and all of the other things, including the stimulus package? Yes, it does that. Does it take back some of the COLAs for the entitlement programs? Yes, it does that, too. But it's only three years ago. If we took that budget and passed it, it would self-balance in two more years."
Webster is a former Florida Senate majority leader and a frontrunner in the Aug. 24 primary.
"For Webster to propose cuts of $100 per person to a program that has served seniors well for so long is an indication that, if he's elected, seniors will be the first ones to suffer," said Tony Fransetta, president of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, in a statement.
The Webster campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
The other six Republican candidates gunning for Grayson also said they want to cut federal spending, but none at the forum put forward proposals as explicit as Webster's.
"We cannot be a European-style nation where we have entitlement programs that suck the money out of hardworking citizens' pockets and we enable those who are not working to continue their lifestyle of sitting at home," said Patricia Sullivan, a homemaker in her first bid for elected office, apparently referring to recent reauthorizations of extended unemployment benefits. "We need to look at those welfare-style entitlement programs."
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the House GOP's point man on the budget, introduced legislation that would partially privatize Social Security and would "modernize" the retirement age, but his proposal has won only 13 cosponsors.
UPDATE 8/20/10: Dan Webster sent a statement to the Orlando Sentinel: "I've never stated that Social Security benefits should be cut or reduced for those who are currently receiving benefits or those near retirement age." Webster insisted that he only meant taking back COLAs for federal employees. He added that Social Security isn't solvent: "Many things must be done to save social security if we ever intend to have the program serve younger Americans. At the rate the program is going now, Social Security will not be around for young Americans who are currently paying into the system!"
So, the Sentinel wonders, did he misspeak when he said his budget proposal would "take back some of the COLAs for the entitlement programs"? HuffPost attempted to get clarification from the Webster campaign.
"Every time I have heard him, Mr. Webster has always tied the entitlement programs directly with the salaries for federal employees," a spokeswoman wrote.