Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush proposed raising the social security retirement age during a Friday speech at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics. When asked by an audience member how he would fix social security, Bush replied by saying:
I think we need to raise the retirement age, not for people that are already nearing, receiving Social Security, or already on it, but raise it gradually, over a long period of time for people that are just entering the system. And I think we need to do that in relatively short order.
Bush’s remarks came just days after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also proposed raising the retirement age at the same location. Although Bush and Christie have long been labeled the comparatively sane GOP moderates in the 2016 presidential field, both are interested in bolstering their conservative credentials by waging a frontal assault on social security, by raising the retirement age.
Jeb’s brother, George W. Bush attempted to implement a social security privatization scheme in his second White House term, but that effort failed in the face of public pressure and Democratic opposition to the plan. Social security cuts, including raising the retirement age to reduce retiree benefits, have long been a goal of well-heeled Republican insiders, but they are very unpopular with the general public.
Rank and file Republican voters, many of whom are elderly, also strongly oppose changes to social security that cut retiree benefits. While Bush’s suggested cuts would not directly affect current retirees, Senior voters are still sensitive to drastic proposals aimed at overhauling social security.
Raising the retirement age disproportionately punishes poor retirees, who on average, work in more physically demanding jobs, and who have a shorter life expectancy than their wealthier counterparts. Bush’s proposal is yet another example of how Republican policies are designed to help the wealthy while doing harm to the middle class and the poor. While Jeb Bush is often portrayed by the media as the “moderate” Republican candidate, there is nothing moderate about his proposal to raise the social security retirement age.