In Iowa, Thompson
Talks Social Security
Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, who has been criticized for not offering many details in his early campaign, is starting to tout one of the more politically-risky proposals of any candidate in the race: ensuring the solvency of Social Security by taking on benefits as opposed to raising taxes.
In a meeting with reporters and editors at the Des Moines Register on Tuesday, Thompson suggested the key to reforming Social Security would be changing the rate of increase in benefits. The current system bases such increases on wages and Thompson suggests benefits increase in accordance with rises in the price of goods, which tend to increase at a slower level. The Bush administration floated a similar proposal when it unsuccessfully sought to reform Social Security in 2005. Democratic candidates have said they would fix Social Security by taxing all income, rather than the first $97,000 a person earns as the system operates under current law.
"Simple change, tough thing to do," Thompson said. "Somebody's going to have to address it."
Thompson seems very focused on this problem on the stump as well, if unable to articulate it in a way voters always understand. In speeches in Iowa, he referred to the problem of "automatic" spending, another time calling it "mandatory" spending, both Washington-speak for the growth of spending in Social Security and Medicare.
On his second tour through Iowa, Fred Thompson spent an hour on Tuesday with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register, the state's largest paper. Nearly all of the 2008 contenders tried to woo the Register, which provided John Edwards a boost when it backed him in the 2004 primary. The paper is expected to endorse a candidate in each party's primary field.
Generally, Thompson left the Register still waiting for details, a sentiment voters have expressed about the candidate as well. "Thompson gave long, meandering answers, but offered few solutions or detailed plans," the paper wrote. "He acknowledged that, saying he's not the candidate to offer a 15-point plan on every issue."
--Perry Bacon Jr.
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