Rick Perry? Don’t Mess With Social Security.

With Rick Perry a new presidential candidate, media coverage has verged from fawning over his skills at retail politics to serious criticism from all quarters about his statements on how Fed Chair Ben Bernake would be treated in Texas

Perry’s comments sort of sound like the last Texan to hold the White House and his occasional cowboy rhetoric: “Wanted, dead or alive” or “Don’t mess with Texas,” but aimed at a mild-mannered Republican economist.

As a new candidate on the national scene – something that is pretty much always harder than candidates expect it to be – Perry will have to adjust and learn quickly. Perhaps he can do that and will win the Republican nomination.

But when it comes to electability, Perry has a more fundamental problem.  It’s that people in America love Social Security. They don’t want it to be cut. They want it to be preserved the way it has been for decades.

When President George W. Bush tried to privatize Social Security, it not only failed but his job approval numbers took a deep dive and his position continues to be a political drain on the Republican party.

Perry’s position on Social Security is that it is unconstitutional and some version of it could be run by the states. That won’t be any more popular.

And, since the presidential race is based on what states do, it’s hard to imagine that Perry could put together an electoral majority with that position.  Two of the biggest swing states – Florida and Pennsylvania – have relatively old populations.  So cross those off the list.

It’s true that the American people don’t follow policy fights all that closely and often don’t keep track of details. But Social Security?  They’ve benefitted from it for 75+ years and they don’t want anyone to mess with it.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives. Fried is Professor of Political Science at the University of Maine. Her views do not reflect those of her employer or any group to which she belongs.