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Rick Perry Backs Off Social Security 'Ponzi Scheme' Comments

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RICK PERRY
AP

WASHINGTON -- Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry recently walked back his claims that Social Security is a "Ponzi scheme," but other Republicans have made similar statements in recent months, saying the entitlement program is a "scheme" to take money from the American people.

Perry has previously taken a hard-line stance against Social Security. In his 2010 book, "Fed Up!" he suggested the program was unconstitutional, put in place "at the expense of respect for the Constitution and limited government." He also wrote that Social Security is "set up like an illegal Ponzi scheme."

Perry has since backed off. His spokesman, Ray Sullivan, told the Wall Street Journal Thursday that the book was not meant to reflect the governor's current views on Social Security.

“The governor wants to see the benefits for existing retirees and those close to Social Security be strongly protected,” Sullivan told the Wall Street Journal, when asked about Perry's current stance.

Yet others in Perry's party have also used the line in recent months. Democratic sources are passing around statements made by Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and Joe Heck (R-Nev.), all of which refer to Social Security as a Ponzi scheme.

Hensarling, the House GOP Conference chairman, said in April that Social Security would bankrupt future generations.

"Let’s remember again the main drivers of this national debt are three large entitlement programs, programs that have been of great comfort and assistance to my parents and grandparents but they’re morphing into cruel Ponzi schemes for my 9-year-old daughter and 7-year-olds," he said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

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In fact, Social Security is decades away from running out of money, and would remain solvent for the next 75 years if all earnings were subject to the payroll tax and the base was retained for benefit calculations, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Freshman Reps. Young, Heck and Ribble have also compared Social Security to a Ponzi scheme, arguing it should be phased out over time.

"I envision a shift in how that system works so that by the time you get there you’re not only responsible for your own but we’ve made tax law available to help you be responsible for your own, and that the government can’t take that money from you and give it to somebody else," Ribble said at a candidate forum last November. "That is in fact a Ponzi scheme."

Heck, meanwhile, called Social Security a "pyramid scheme" at a forum in May. He then backtracked, issuing a flier saying he "chose [his] words poorly," the Las Vegas Sun later reported.

Young told supporters in June that the government had been raiding the coffers of Social Security.

"Social Security, as so many of you know, is a Ponzi scheme," Young said at an event. "We pay our payroll taxes, it says it's going to Social Security. 'Oh, I must have an account up in Washington that has my name on it.' I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, they've been raiding that for years."

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