Donald Trump's hand-picked candidate Blake Masters is the latest to endorse the unpopular idea.
The front-runner in the GOP primary to run for Senate in Arizona in November against Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly suggested on June 23 that Social Security should be privatized, an approach to the popular government program that experts say could jeopardize a vital financial lifeline for retired Americans.
"We need fresh and innovative thinking," said venture capitalist Blake Masters, a candidate endorsed by former President Donald Trump and bankrolled by right-wing investor Peter Thiel, said at a forum hosted by the right-wing advocacy group FreedomWorks. "Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it."
Masters is the second GOP candidate running for Senate in Arizona to call for privatizing the overwhelmingly popular government program that provides income to retired and disabled adults, after Republican Jim Lamon, whose campaign website posits as a model for the retirement program, "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."
The Arizona Republicans are among a number of GOP candidates running for Senate who support privatizing the program, including New Hampshire GOP candidate Kevin Smith, who, according to audio recorded at an event hosted by the New Boston Republican Committee, said in response to a question about financial measures, "I think another thing we can look at is, in the future, reforming Social Security — not touching anyone's Social Security in here — we've all paid into the system, and I would not propose that at all. But for my kids who haven't paid into the system yet, and my grandkids who aren't born yet going from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, for them. So, but that's, those are for future generations."
Republicans have been pushing to privatize the program for years, calling for investment of a worker's Social Security payroll taxes in a private, individual account. Experts say it's a risky move that would leave workers' retirement at the whim of the stock market rather than guarantee income for retirees.
"In a privatized system, workers' retirement income would depend upon many factors: the performance of the stock market, luck, investment savvy, the timing of retirement (i.e., whether the stock market was up or down), and other factors outside a worker's control. Social Security's income guarantee would be lost, and it would no longer serve as a source of ensured income for the elderly, especially lower-income workers, women, and minorities," according to a 2020 report published by the nonprofit think tank Economic Policy Institute.
The loss of that guaranteed income could be financially devastating, given that one in four older adults receive 90% of their income from Social Security benefits, according to the research and policy organization Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Social Security is especially important in Arizona, which has a large portion of retirees. It is the second-most popular state for retirees over age 60, behind only Florida, according to AARP, a lobby for older Americans. According to Census Bureau statistics, 18.5% of Arizona's population is over the age of 65.
The outcome of the Arizona Senate race will be critical to which party controls the Senate, currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans need to net just one seat to take control of the majority.
Inside Elections, a nonpartisan political handicapping outlet, rates the race a toss-up.
Incumbent Sen. Kelly has said he won't support privatizing the program.
"I've got a message for Arizonans: I will protect Social Security and Medicare. Period," Kelly said in a campaign ad that ran during the 2020 special election he won to fill the seat of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.