Take a look at the views of the Republican Presidential candidates on Social Security:
- Jeb Bush: Increase full retirement age, possibly to 70
- Ben Carson: Wants people who don't need the money to opt out of receiving Social Security
- Chris Christie: Increase full retirement age to 69 and means-test benefits
- Ted Cruz: Partially privatize Social Security, increase full retirement age and cut cost of living adjustment
- Carly Fiorina: Increase full retirement age
- Jim Gilmore: Put a cap on benefits; praised George W. Bush for proposing partial privatization of Social Security
- Lindsey Graham: Increase full retirement age to 70 and cut benefits for some recipients
- Mike Huckabee: Does not favor Social Security changes.
- Bobby Jindal: Partially privatize Social Security
- John Kasich: Partially privatize Social Security
- George Pataki: Increase full retirement age
- Rand Paul: Increase full retirement age to 70 and means test benefits
- Marco Rubio: Increase full retirement age by one year; also believes that benefits should "grow more slowly"
- Rick Santorum: Privatize Social Security, increase full retirement age, means test benefits
- Donald Trump: Does not favor Social Security changes
- Scott Walker: Increase full retirement age
Every Republican Presidental candidate other than Carson, Huckabee and Trump supports either raising full retirement age or partially privatizing Social Security. Carson may want such changes but he hasn't yet spoken on Social Security issues in any meaningful way. Encouraging people to voluntarily forego their Social Security benefits? Few people can afford to do so and far fewer would do so. I think he'll be asked specific questions about Social Security in the near future.
What's going to happen when the Republican race starts narrowing down? If Trump remains the front runner, we can expect to see negative ads from his opponents. How does Trump respond? Social Security seems to be a wedge issue he could use to attack almost any of his Republican opponents. Raising full retirement age and partially privatizing Social Security may be popular ideas with big Republican donors but these ideas are unpopular with rank and file Republicans. The polling we have shows 62% of Republicans in favor of increasing Social Security benefits and 74% of Republicans willing to preserve Social Security even if it means raising taxes. Only 26% of Republicans favor increasing full retirement age to 70. An intra-party debate on Social Security could be devastating for Republicans.