Two overshadowed vice presidential candidates briefly emerged into the media spotlight on Tuesday night. Their areas of agreement turned out to be more telling than their disagreements.
Tim Kaine said tonight that Mike Pence “was the chief cheerleader for the privatization of Social Security. Even after President Bush stopped pushing for it, Congressman Pence kept pushing for it.”
Pence responded that “All Donald Trump and I have said is we will meet our obligations to our seniors.”
And, during the 2016 campaign, it’s true that Trump has claimed that “We will not cut Medicare or Social Security benefits.”
But there’s plenty of reason to believe he’s lying.
The 2016 Republican platform states that “all options should be considered to preserve Social Security. As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth.” This is code for GOP support for privatization.
Tom Barrack, a private equity executive, Trump adviser and longtime friend of Trump, said a month ago that Trump is not advocating cuts now “because it’s a political suicide to make this case.” But eventually, said Barrack, “I think you’re going to see Donald do” what Ronald Reagan did and reduce entitlements. Trump adviser Sam Clovis said the candidate would consider changes to Social Security and Medicare if he is elected.
Trump also wrote in a 2000 book that “Privatization would be good for all of us.”
Pence himself has a long track record of supporting cuts and privatization. In 2005, when he was chair of the Republican Study Committee, he proclaimed that “Conservatives want to see personal retirement accounts” — i.e., privatization. In 2010 he stated that “with regard to entitlements … we’re going to have to take some deep cuts in domestic spending.”
In a statement released during the debate, Nancy Altman, founding co-director of Social Security Works, said: “Voters cannot be informed if candidates refuse to tell the truth. It is fine to repudiate past positions, but not to deny them. Both Donald Trump and Governor Mike Pence have clear records in support of privatizing Social Security — in fact, Pence criticized George W. Bush’s failed privatization plan for not going far enough! But rather than being honest with the American people, Mike Pence sought to mislead them tonight. He did that because poll after poll shows that the American people support expanding, not cutting, Social Security. In one recent survey, 68% of voters, including 53% of Republicans, opposed Social Security privatization.”