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November 13th, 2011

Four GOP Candidates Discuss Social Security and Medicare with AARP

Four Republican presidential candidates made it a priority to participate in an AARP discussion that solely focused on retirement issues.  The interviews were conducted by WHO TV’s Dave Price and will be part of the AARP’s video voter guide on retirement security.

The four candidates who participated were Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Two candidates, Mitt Romney and Herman Cain were invited but declined to participate, and two other candidates, Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman didn’t meet the five percent national threshold to participate.

The interviews will be broadcast statewide on Mediacom Channel 22 tonight from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The program also will be available on Mediacom’s on-demand channel.  The interviews will also be made available on AARP’s website and will be mailed to AARP members across the state in advance of the caucuses.

Here is what to look for:

Michele Bachmann: 

In her interview, Bachmann stressed that the federal government must keep its promises to those who are already receiving Social Security benefits, but the government must also create a system that allows personal ownership.  Citing the government’s reliance in borrowing money from China, Bachmann said, “The government has proved it’s irresponsible.”  She stressed that people would be better off with real accounts with real money in them that they would have title to.  At one point in the interview, Bachmann said, “People take better care of the things that they own.”

Newt Gingrich:

Once again Gingrich was on the top of his game for the AARP interview.  He provided a level of detail that the other candidates didn’t match.  When asked about his ideas for helping older Americans find jobs, he proposed attaching a re-training program as part of the unemployment system.  When discussing private accounts, he went further by explaining that only the dollars that the worker pays into the system could be put in a private account, while the employer match would remain in the present system in order to maintain a safety net.  It’s this level of detail that separates Gingrich from the rest of the field.

Gingrich also had high praise for AARP.  “We reformed Medicare in 1996, in a presidential election year with a liberal president in the White House. AARP stayed totally natural and the played it totally straight.  They covered Dick Gephardt and me totally straight over the last few months of the campaign.  That told the American people that a medi-scare campaign wouldn’t work because it wasn’t true,” Gingrich boasted.  The only problem is that, in a debate with Herman Cain the next day, Gingrich told a Tea Party crowd, “Don’t let the LEFT and AARP lie to you.”

Seems like Gingrich changes his tune a bit when in front of different audiences.

Ron Paul:

Congressman Ron Paul says that the recession and poor economy are some of the biggest difficulties facing older Americans who are living on fixed incomes.   “We have to get rid of the recession, and to do that, you have to know where it came from,” Paul said in the interview with AARP.

Paul believes that poor investments and too much debt are at the root of the problem.  However, he also believes that too much government spending is what got us into this mess.  To turn things around, he proposes making changes to the current tax code, repealing legislation like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and Sarbanes–Oxley, and eliminating entire federal departments.

Paul also added that America should stop fighting foreign wars, which would allow those dollars to be used for programs at home.  Paul’s position might not sit well with some Republican primary voters, but a poll conducted by AARP shows that Iowa Republicans would rather withdraw troops instead of making cuts to Medicare and Social Security.

Rick Perry:

While all of the candidates made similar points in responding to the four questions that AARP asked of them, Rick Perry was the only candidate to propose that social security participants should not have to pay federal taxes on their benefits.  Perry also said that no changes would be made for those who are already in or approaching retirement.  Perry also supports increasing the retirement age as well as instituting means testing.

“I think if you test for the income levels and, you know, obviously if you’re Warren Buffett, I’m not sure you sure you really need to be accessing Social Security,” Perry said in the interview.

While that may true, Social Security has been billed as retirement program run by the government.  Many conservatives advocate for personal retirement accounts for a number of reasons, but mainly so that the government keeps its hands off of people’s money.  What Perry is suggesting is that, at some point, the government can confiscate the money you have paid into Social Security because you have been successful, and thus, are no longer entitled to it.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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