Arizona GOP Senate candidate wants to 'save' Social Security by privatizing it

3391

Jim Lamon would also raise the eligibility age so people would have to work even longer.

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Jim Lamon has repeatedly said he wants to save and preserve Social Security. But his own campaign website reveals that he aims to raise the program's eligibility age and to privatize it, leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves.

In a video message on his website, Lamon claims, "Social Security is headed for a train wreck, for bankruptcy. Politicians who kick the can down the road, we must save Social Security. I intend to be bold in the U.S. Senate to make it happen."

"So we got to get the priorities: national defense, internal security, border control, our law enforcement agencies, those people who can't provide for themselves mentally, physically, and also, of course, Social Security, Medicare," he said in a November radio appearance with Arizona talk show host Jeff Oravits.

But his campaign policy page reveals that his idea of saving Social Security is actually making significant cuts to the program and privatizing it for people who are not yet retired.

After blaming the "deterioration" of the 87-year-old entitlement program on China and abortion, Lamon calls for a series "fundamental systemic improvements."

First, he says, America must "gradually increase the benefits access age" because "47% of people on Social Security are younger than 65; the intent was never to support people still well able to work."

According to the Social Security Administration, workers can access benefits if they are at least 62 years old, disabled, or blind. Dependent family members can also receive benefits in some circumstances. Lamon's plan would force those people to work longer to receive the benefits they are entitled to receive.

A Lamon spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.

Lamon also calls for "universal savings accounts" that would allow individuals in invest their money in risky retirement funds rather than guaranteed government retirement benefits. He calls this an "option for every worker to enjoy the benefit from investment in the US economy while also creating a tangible, inheritable asset for their children, instead of the government-controlled trust fund model."

That would turn Social Security from a pension program into a government-endorsed 401(K) plan. Under then-President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and again in 2018, Republicans unsuccessfully pushed similar privatization schemes.

Experts say a plan like this would benefit the wealthiest Americans and put millions of future retirees at the mercy of the stock market. Someone who put their Social Security funds into a bad investment could be left with nothing, leading to exactly the sort of poverty for senior citizens that the program was designed to end.

In a 1997 article, Brookings Institution economist Henry Aaron wrote that privatizing Social Security was "a bad idea whose time will never come."

"It is far and away the most important U.S. antipoverty program," Aaron wrote of the existing system. "Privatization is a bad idea because it places risks on individual workers that they should not be expected to shoulder and that Social Security now spreads broadly among all workers. It would create costly and needless administrative burdens."

Polls show little support for what Lamon wants to do.

An August 2020 survey by AARP found that 96% of American adults said Social Security was either the most important program or one of the most important programs the government operates.

Another poll that month, conducted by Data for Progress, found 54% of likely voters ranked "preventing cuts to Social Security benefits" as their most important issue for the 2020 election.

Lamon has also been open about his desire to cut Social Security and other entitlement programs.

In a January appearance on the right-wing Charlie Kirk Show, he said that he would preserve the programs for those who already rely on Social Security and Medicare, but "after that, Charlie, everything's on the table" for cuts. "And I intend to be brutal," he promised.

In a radio interview that month on Tucson radio station KVOI's Inside Track, Lamon endorsed entitlement cuts to balance the federal budget, saying, "'Oh Jim, are you going to take those?' You're damn right, because that's where the money is."

After Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, released his party's "Rescue America" plan, which includes letting Social Security and Medicare expire every five years and be subject to reapproval by the Congress, Lamon embraced the package. He joked to supporters in March that it appeared Scott could have plagiarized the plan from his own website, claiming, "Looks awfully familiar!"

While Republicans have long wanted to dismantle Social Security and other government entitlement programs, in 2016 candidate Donald Trump ran on a promise to preserve the programs without cuts.

"Every Republican wants to do a big number of Social Security. They want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid," he said in April 2015, just before kicking off his campaign. "And we can't do that. And it's not fair to the people that have been paying in for years."

"I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid," he reaffirmed in May 2015.

As he did with most of his major campaign promises, Trump abandoned this pledge, vowing in January 2020 that he would make major cuts to the social safety net "toward the end of the year" because he had such a great economy.

Lamon was not only a strong Trump supporter; he also fraudulently pretended to be an elector for Trump in the Electoral College after President Joe Biden won the presidential election in Arizona in 2020.

Lamon has a complicated relationship with government programs. In a March fundraising email, he decried COVID-19 pandemic relief legislation, including the Paycheck Protection Program that provided billions in forgivable loans to businesses, as a "socialist spending binge." But DEPCOM Power, an energy company he founded and ran at the time, took $2.6 million in funds from that very program in May 2020.

Recent polling by RealClearPolitics shows Lamon and state Attorney General Mark Brnovich as front-runners for the GOP nomination for Senate, with venture capitalist Blake Masters close behind.

The winner will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly on Nov. 8.

Kelly has pledged not to dismantle entitlement programs, saying in a 2020 ad, "I've got a message for Arizonans: I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.