An Open Question on Social Security

Right now, everyone’s in campaign mode. All the guns, all the cylinders are being fired at once. This is the quadrennial “big f*ckin’ deal” as Joe Biden would say. So perhaps it’s not the right time to pose this question…but then again, given that election times tend to represent unique opportunities to put pressure on candidates, perhaps it’s the perfect time.

On the subject of Social Security:

Bad:

First, for future generations of seniors, Mitt believes that the retirement age should be slowly increased to account for increases in longevity.
~ Mitt Romney, campaign website


Worse:

All other workers will have a choice to stay in the current system or begin contributing to personal accounts. Those who choose the personal account option will have the opportunity to begin investing a significant portion of their payroll taxes into a series of funds managed by the U.S. government.
~ Paul Ryan, Roadmap for America’s Future


MUCH Better! (not to mention VERY definitive):

I guarantee you, flat guarantee you, there will be no changes in Social Security. I flat guarantee you.
~ Joe Biden, 8/14/12


…and finally, on October 3rd — a full six weeks’ after Biden’s very clear and reassuring statement — come on, Mr. President, bring it on home!

I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill.
~ Barack Obama (to Mitt Romney), first Presidential debate, 10/3/12

In a word, AAAAAAARRRRGH.

And yes, Obama fans, the President did hedge his remarks by mouthing the boilerplate used by all politicians who do not wish their career cut short from being electrocuted by the “third rail of American politics” (Obama said SS was basically “structurally sound”). But the operative words in Obama’s quote up there are in bold: he told 60 million Americans simultaneously that a) his position on Social Security was similar to Mitt Romney’s (who says his and Ryan’s are similar), and b) Social Security “will need to be tweaked.”

I’m sorry, Obama fans: “flat guarantee you: there will be no changes” just isn’t compatible with “will need to be tweaked.” Anyone else still wondering how (and how quickly) the administration will attempt to square this circle, assuming the Obama/Biden ticket wins another term?