Pence Suggests Controversial Bush-Era Social Security Reform — Why It Failed Last Time

Meg Kinnard/AP/Shutterstock / Meg Kinnard/AP/Shutterstock

A proposal to privatize Social Security has been revived by former Vice President Mike Pence, who told a group in Washington, D.C., last week that he wants to reform the retirement program by instituting private savings accounts for recipients.

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Pence’s comments were made during a speech at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors summit, Yahoo News reported. A video of the event was obtained by American Bridge 21st Century, a super PAC and tracking group that supports Democratic candidates.

“There are modest reforms in entitlements that can be done without disadvantaging anybody at the point of the need,” Pence said at the summit. “I think the day could come when we could replace the New Deal with a better deal. Literally give younger Americans the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.”

Pence, who served as vice president under ex-President Donald Trump, has been mentioned as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024, which would pit him against his former boss.

The idea of privatizing all or part of Social Security has been floated for decades, but it has never come close to being turned into law. As a U.S. House member in 2005, Pence himself was involved when former President George W. Bush tried to reform Social Security with a plan to partially privatize it. That proposal fell short because it didn’t have enough support in Congress. 

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Now that Republicans have control of the House, some of its members have proposed cutting or changing Social Security. They point not only to its costs but also to the fact that trust funds that help pay for the program are due to run out of money by the middle of next decade.

Some Republicans have tried to use Social Security reform as a bargaining chip in negotiations over the current debt ceiling crisis, but House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said the GOP “won’t touch Medicare or Social Security” in negotiations.

Trump has also voiced opposition to Social Security cuts, saying in a 2024 presidential campaign video that “under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.”

But as The Hill reported, Pence sees Social Security reform as a way to put tax money elsewhere while also giving younger Americans more options in how they save for retirement.

“I think it’s absolutely essential that we generate leadership in this country that’ll be straight with the American people, that will take us off this trajectory of massive debt that we’re piling on the backs of those grandchildren, and says there’s a way back,” Pence said at the Washington summit.

Whether those views do anything to bolster Pence’s still unannounced presidential run is another story.

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“Mike Pence’s presidential bid is dead on arrival,” American Bridge spokesperson Grace Hagerty told Yahoo News. “In a failing attempt to give it life, he’s leaning into George W. Bush’s far-right, unpopular and deeply harmful plan to privatize Social Security. It didn’t work then. It won’t work now.”

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