WASHINGTON -- The fault lines of the next major policy debate are beginning to emerge as Texas Governor Rick Perry called out Republicans for refusing to label Social Security a "Ponzi scheme."
Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation to promote his new book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," the Texas Republican said that he had a tete-a-tete with presumptive Speaker John Boehner on Saturday. Over a couple of hours, the two touched base on the election results and upcoming legislative priorities. Top of the list, Perry said, was Social Security reform and the need to move oversight of the entitlement program away from the federal government and to the states.
"There have been a lot of political figures, totally and absolutely afraid to talk about [the fact] that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme," said Perry. "My eldest child is 27, my baby is 24 and they know, they know that Social Security is not going to be there for them. So let's talk about it. What are some of the options out there? And I think that is one of the great roles that governors can play, leading that conversation. Many of us would like to be in charge of those pension programs."
"The message from John Boehner is very clear, that he was listening Tuesday night and that finding the solutions to the challenges that face us as a country emanate from the states," he added.
Traversing the country to promote his book, Perry has driven a lot of speculation about a possible presidential bid. In that regard, bluntly calling out Republican lawmakers for their timidity on Social Security would seem like an effort to set the bar for other Republican White House aspirants. The facts are, of course, a bit fuzzy. Social Security can pay full benefits until 2037 and about 80% benefits indefinitely after. But policy minutiae isn't really Perry's point.
The governor, fresh off winning a third term in office, offered a customary dismissal of any 2012 talk, though in a rather counterintuitive way. He cited the book as evidence that he wouldn't fare well in a campaign for the White House -- "If you need a reason, Exhibit A, that I'm not running for the presidency is, I wrote this book."
But if he personally is keeping 2012 at arm's distance, he isn't shy about weighing in on the prospects of other potential candidates.
"The health-care plan out of Massachusetts, I will suggest to you, is too much like the health-care plan that was passed in Washington," Perry told a separate gathering of reporters Monday morning, in a shot at Mitt Romney's White House hopes.