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John McCain on Social Security

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


Future retirees cannot get what current ones get

I think it’s very important that we reform our entitlement programs.

We are not going to be able to provide the same benefit for present-day workers that present-day retirees have today. We’re going to have to sit down across the table, Republican and Democrat, as we did in 1983 between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill.

I know how to do that. I have a clear record of reaching across the aisle, whether it be Joe Lieberman or Russ Feingold or Ted Kennedy or others. That’s my clear record.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 7, 2008

It’s not that tough to fix Social Security, if bipartisan

Q: Would you give Congress a date certain to reform Social Security?

McCAIN: Look, it’s not that hard to fix Social Security. It’s just tough decisions. Social Security is not that tough. We know what the problems are, my friends, and we know what the fixes are. We’ve got to sit down together across the table. It’s been done before. I saw it done with our Ronald Reagan, a conservative, and the liberal Democrat Tip O’Neill. That’s what we need more of, and that’s what I’ve done in Washington.

Source: 2008 second presidential debate against Barack Obama , Oct 7, 2008

Looming challenges of entitlements need personal accounts

Reform Social Security: John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts--but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle, but if the Democrats do not act, he will. No problem is in more need of honesty than the looming financial challenges of entitlement programs. Americans have the right to know the truth and John McCain will not leave office without fixing the problems that threatens our future prosperity and power.

Control Medicare Growth: The growth of spending on Medicare threatens our fiscal future. John McCain has proposed comprehensive health care reforms that will reduce the growth in Medicare spending, protect seniors against rising Medicare premium payments, and preserve the advancements in medical science central to providing quality care.

Source: Campaign plan: “Bold Solutions for Economic Prosperity” , Feb 3, 2008

We need personal savings accounts

Q: What about Social Security?

A: Look, what Americans need is some straight talk. Every man, woman and child in America needs to know it’s going broke, and we’ve got to do the hard things. We’ve got to fix it for the future generations of Americans. Don’t we owe that to young Americans today? I say we do. It’s got to be bipartisan. And you have to go to the American people and say we won’t raise your taxes. We need personal savings accounts, but we got to fix this system.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida , Oct 21, 2007

Willing to compromise on raising cap above $90K

Q: In Feb. 2005, I asked you about the suggestion that the payroll tax, which is now capped at $90,000 of income be lifted so the people who pay a payroll tax on more than the first $90,000. You said you’d be willing to do that as part of a compromise.

Q: Is that still your view?

A: Am I opposed to tax increases? Yes. But we’ve got to sit down together and figure out what our options are, and tough decisions have to be made, Republicans and Democrats. And I know how to do that.

Source: Meet the Press: 2007 “Meet the Candidates” series , May 13, 2007

Save benefits by bipartisan agreement; but without new tax

Q: As part of a compromise to keep Social Security from going bankrupt, would you be willing to cut benefits? Would you be willing to increase the age for eligibility?

A: Before we get into any of those specifics, you have to know that anyone who gets out front on this issue without sitting down and negotiating with everything on the table will get nowhere. And so I will do what Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill did. I will sit down with the Democrats. We will look at the options on the table. We’ll call in the smartest people that we can find, and we’ll reach an agreement.

Q: Back in 2005, you said you could support an increase in Social Security taxes as part of a compromise. Do you stand by that?

A: As part of a compromise, if you come up with a benefit, I can accept almost anything, but it’s got to be part of a compromise. Am I for raising anybody’s taxes? No, I am not. I am unalterably opposed to doing so. I will not support a tax increase; it’s off the table, certainly, now.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Trust Fund is a ticking time bomb, set to go off in 2014

We’ve got a ticking time bomb out there. And it’s called the Social Security Trust Fund. And starting in 2014 there’ll be more money going out than in. There’s a $5 trillion unfunded liability out there in the form of the Social Security Trust Fund. If we can put the money in quick, then we will be able to allow people to invest their payroll taxes into investments of their choosing and make a huge amount of difference in the solvency of their retirement fund.
Source: GOP Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

More believe in Elvis than in getting Social Security check

In good times, when we have a surplus, we should give the middle income Americans a tax break. They need it. They pay as much as 40 percent of their income in taxes. But at the same time, people are telling me: save Social Security; put some money into Medicare and pay down that debt. And don’t put that burden on future generations of Americans. More young Americans believe Elvis is alive than believe that they’ll ever see a Social Security check.
Source: GOP Debate in Manchester NH , Jan 26, 2000

Option to invest 20% of payroll taxes in private accounts

McCain will present today his first comprehensive plan for apportioning the spoils of the nation’s current prosperity, calling for. a program to shore up Social Security through the establishment of individual retirement accounts. McCain also specifically allocates money to help Medicare, which like Social Security faces a financial shortfall as the population ages. He calls for workers to have the option of investing at least 20% of their Social Security payroll taxes in private accounts.
Source: New York Times, p. A21 , Jan 11, 2000

Every dollar off-budget - no ifs, ands, or excuses

I will not allow your Social Security money to be used for any purpose except Social Security - no ifs, ands, or excuses. Social Security money will be taken completely off budget - every single dollar. So politicians can’t get their hands on your retirement money to finance another big government scheme. I’ll reserve more than sixty percent of the surplus to save Social Security. And I’ll do it in the first year of my presidency.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH , Sep 27, 1999

Disallow using Trust Fund for “emergency” spending

McCain decried the use of Social Security trust funds for such “emergency” spending as the subsidized reindeer ranches found in the recent emergency spending bill. He also criticized the “lockbox” bill passed last month by the House of Representatives because of its loophole allowing for just such “emergency spending.” “Let’s take the Social Security Trust Fund completely off budget,” McCain declared, so that “no politician can ever use it again for any purpose other than your retirement.”
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Press Releases” , Jun 2, 1999

Allow workers to invest privately

McCain today called for allowing workers for the first time to invest a portion of their Social Security in private accounts.McCain called for “bold, genuine reform that allows workers to invest some of their Social Security savings, privately, in higher yielding accounts.” “Promoting investment in America by every American worker would give lower-income Americans the ownership they deserve in the country we share, as well as grow their Social Security more rapidly,” said McCain.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Press Releases” , Jun 2, 1999

Earnings test penalizes productivity in retirees

McCain again called for the elimination of the Social Security earnings test, calling it “an obscene penalty” that punishes Americans aged 65 to 70 for remaining productive in their retirement years. The loss of benefits for such work “hits hardest and most cruelly at lower-income seniors, many of whom must work to pay for basic living expenses. It completely fails the fairness test.”
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Press Releases” , Jun 2, 1999

Eliminate the “earnings test” which taxes benefits

McCain is leading the fight to eliminate the unfair Social Security earnings test, which penalizes seniors who need to work to make ends meet by taxing their Social Security benefits by $1 for every $3 they earn over $15,500. McCain believes everyone who has worked and invested in the Social Security system must be guaranteed to receive the benefits they were promised. This guarantee must be fulfilled in a way that does not put an unfair burden on American workers.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 5/24/99 , May 24, 1999

Lock up Trust Fund; devote 62% of budget surplus to it

McCain will make sure Social Security funds are used only for Social Security. His plan will lock up the entire Social Security Trust Fund keeping it out of the hands of politicians. And he will devote 62% of the budget surplus exclusively to shoring up the Social Security program. He will not allow Washington bureaucrats to fund special interest projects and new government programs with the Social Security money hard-working Americans have paid into the system for years.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 5/24/99 , May 24, 1999

Put surplus into Trust Fund; fulfill promised benefits

Source: 1998 National Political Awareness Test , Jul 2, 1998

Voted YES on using the Social Security Surplus to fund tax reductions.

Vote on a motion to table (or kill) the motion to recommit the bill to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee with instructions directing the committee to "correct the fact that the bill uses" Social Security surpluses for tax breaks.
Reference: Bill S.1429 ; vote number 1999-236 on Jul 30, 1999

Voted YES on Social Security Lockbox & limiting national debt.

This vote limited debate on the amendment offered by Sen. Abraham (R-MI) that would have created a Social Security "lockbox" and establish limits on the public debt. [A YES vote was for a lockbox]. This vote failed because 3/5 of the Senate did not vote.
Status: Cloture Motion Rejected Y)54; N)45; NV)1
Reference: Motion to invoke cloture on Amdt #254 to S. 557; Bill S. 557 ; vote number 1999-90 on Apr 22, 1999

Voted YES on allowing Roth IRAs for retirees.

Senator Roth (R-DE) offered this amendment to the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act to allow people older than 70.5 with incomes over $100,000 to move funds from an Individual Retirement Account into a Roth IRA.
Status: Amdt Agreed to Y)56; N)42; NV)2
Reference: Roth Amdt #2339; Bill H.R. 2676 ; vote number 1998-120 on May 6, 1998

Voted YES on allowing personal retirement accounts.

Vote on an amendment expressing the sense of the Senate that the Finance Committee should consider legislation to use the federal budget surplus to establish personal retirement accounts as a supplement to Social Security.
Reference: Bill S.Con.Res.86 ; vote number 1998-56 on Apr 1, 1998

Voted YES on deducting Social Security payments on income taxes.

Vote on an amendment to establish an income tax deduction for Social Security taxes paid by employees and the self-employed.
Reference: Bill S Con Res 57 ; vote number 1996-140 on May 22, 1996

Rated 40% by the ARA, indicating a mixed record on senior issues.

McCain scores 40% by the ARA on senior issues

The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.

The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ARA website 03n-ARA on Dec 31, 2003

Supports individual savings accounts and work incentives.

McCain adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership issue stance:

Congress must address the rapidly approaching disaster of a depleted Social Security system. Within the next ten years "baby boomers" will start retiring. It is estimated that, as a result of this, by 2013 Social Security will be making greater payments to retirees than it will take in from the workforce. By 2032 the Social Security Trust Fund will be completely exhausted. Congress could rewrite this forecast by establishing individual savings accounts, restoring Social Security to permanent actuarial solvency, improving work incentives and/or resolving internal administrative problems.

Source: Republican Main St. Partnership Issue Paper: Fiscal Policy 98-RMSP3 on Sep 9, 1998

  • Click here for 2 older quotations from John McCain on Social Security.
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Page last updated: Oct 09, 2013