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Fact-Check: Mike Pence and Social Security Reform

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During Tuesday night’s vice presidential debate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine claimed that Mike Pence has attempted to repeal Social Security.

In fact, as CNN Money noted in a July profile of Pence, he was a “leading fiscal conservative” during his 12 years in Congress, and “backed various efforts to reform Social Security in a bid to make the program solvent for the long term and to reduce government spending.”

As CNN Money noted, one of those reform plans was proposed by President George W. Bush. Pence and other conservatives had “previously proposed a similar but more aggressive reform plan than Bush’s – one that would have phased in faster and let workers put more of their payroll taxes into private accounts.”

It is a common liberal caricature of these proposals to claim they would have wiped out Social Security, but this is merely hysterical rhetoric, of the sort deployed against all serious reform efforts. Allowing workers the option to put some of their money into private accounts would not have “repealed” or “destroyed” Social Security; those who proposed such reforms were explicitly attempting to save the system, which is unquestionably heading for insolvency, according to the Social Security trustees themselves.

CNN Money also recalled Pence stating that cuts to Social Security payments, or increases to the retirement age, were “on the table” in 2010. “I think everything has to be on the table. I’m an all-of-the-above guy. We need look at everything on the menu,” Pence declared.

Most politicians, including most Democrats, make similar statements about looking at all options to keep Social Security solvent for as long as possible. President Barack Obama proposed cuts to Social Security benefits in his budget for fiscal 2015, for example. Raising the retirement age is frequently discussed as a way to keep the system running as the U.S. population ages, although the idea is always controversial.

As for Donald Trump, he has said, “I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is.”

He added, however, that “as our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations.”

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