THE BLOG

Tea Party Pushes Back Against Anti-Social Security K Street GOP

08/24/2010 12:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Mike Elk Labor reporter at POLITICO; Member of the Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild

Daniel Webster is the former Florida State Senate Majority leader and a rising star within the GOP. The Republican National Committee handpicked him to run against progressive hero Congressman Alan Grayson in Florida. Webster seemed like the easy pick to win his party's primary to run against Grayson, but after recent comments in favor of cutting Social Security, his chances are now looking less likely.

Webster seems to have gotten himself in hot water with some of the Tea Party movements biggest backers -- senior citizens. Last week during a forum, Webster proposed cutting the regular Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) increases for entitlement programs including Social Security. Webster's proposal would result in a 100 dollar per month cut for those on Social Security. Webster's proposal was so radical that none of the other six conservative candidates he was debating would explicitly call for any form of cuts whatsoever in Social Security. Webster was hounded in the press and by voters for his radical position.

As a result, Webster quickly changed his position, stating "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." Despite the fact that in the debate he called for just that by saying all COLA adjustment for all entitlement programs (including Social Security) should be cut, Webster had to quickly backtrack because calling for cuts to Social Security is political suicide in a place like Florida.

Webster was pushed back by overwhelming public support for the program. Social Security recipients cannot be marginalized and stereotyped the way "welfare queens" are since we all have a family member that depends on Social Security. More than 52.5 million total beneficiaries receive Social Security, including 9.7 million disabled persons under age 65 and dependent family members, 6.4 million survivors of deceased workers, and 36.4 million retired workers and their families.

As a result of the widespread use of Social Security, 81% of the American public is opposed to cuts of any kind to Social Security, according to a recent poll. Even 59% of self-identified Tea Party supporters feel favorable towards politicians that support Social Security according to the same poll; thus, when GOP star Daniel Webster made comments denouncing Social Security, he immediately had to denounce cuts to Social Security because not even the Tea Party supports a position as radical as cutting Social Security.

This should also serve as a lesson to Democrats. Nobody on the left or right supports cutting Social Security and will rapidly turn against any politicians left or right who supports cuts to Social Security.

Voters are suspect Democrats are the party that might be looking to cut Social Security. A recent poll shows that only 26% of voters trust Democrats with Social Security, while a slightly higher percent trust Republicans (30%). As the president's deficit commission continues its discussion about cutting Social Security, the Democratic Party must be reminded that voters are suspect of even the slightest suggestion of cutting Social Security. As the example of Tea Party Republicans turning against K Street Republicans like Daniel Webster shows the only people who support cuts to Social Security are DC elites in the beds of Wall Street and out of touch with the overwhelming majority on the left and right.