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How President Obama and Mitt Romney compare on preserving Social Security for America’s seniors

In the first debate, Mitt Romney sacrificed the facts in order to mislead and confuse voters about where he stands on important issues to the middle class. On one issue—Social Security—it’s worth clarifying where President Obama and Governor Romney agree and where they disagree. Both President Obama and Mitt Romney know that the program is solvent for more than two decades and that there’s a need for gradual reforms to the benefits that millions of seniors have worked for, paid for, and earned. But that’s where their agreement ends.

While President Obama is committed to keeping the promise of guaranteed Social Security benefits for current and future generations, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have supported plans to privatize the program, and have put forward a plan that would slash benefits for current workers. Here are the key differences between the President’s and Romney-Ryan’s approach to Social Security:

Obama-Biden

The President knows that guaranteed Social Security benefits are not handouts, but a bedrock of the commitment to retirement security America makes to our seniors. He believes that no current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced, and he will not accept any approach that slashes benefits for future generations. President Obama stands firmly opposed to privatizing Social Security—the future security of hard-working Americans should not be dependent on the fluctuations of the stock market. That is why the President has called on Congress to develop a bipartisan plan that follows these principles:

  • Any reform should strengthen Social Security for future generations and restore long-term solvency.

  • The administration will oppose any measures that privatize or weaken the Social Security system.

  • While all measures to strengthen solvency should be on the table, the administration will not accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.

  • No current beneficiaries should see their basic benefits reduced.

  • Reforms should strengthen retirement security for the most vulnerable, including low-income seniors.

  • Reform should maintain robust disability and survivors’ benefits.

Romney-Ryan

Mitt Romney is taking a starkly different approach to Social Security—he refuses to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, and is proposing to close Social Security shortfalls through benefit cuts alone. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Peter Diamond and former OMB director Peter Orszag noted, his plan insists that any reform prohibit additional revenue, and thus relies on “excessive benefit cuts that would undermine financial security for future retirees.” Analysis of a similar plan showed that typical workers in their forties would lose $2,400 a year, and workers in their twenties would lose $4,700 a year in future benefits. Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan was even the architect of a privatization plan that would have left seniors’ benefits devastated by the 2008 financial crisis.

The choice is clear: President Obama will never privatize Social Security or undermine retirement security for middle-class Americans. The same cannot be said for Romney.