September 21st, 2008
02:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Obama's Social Security charge

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Obama said McCain would have put Social Security in the stock market."] The statement:
"If my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would have had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week...  Millions would've watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes.  Millions of families would've been scrambling to figure out how to give their mothers and their fathers, their grandmothers and their grandfathers, the security retirement that every American deserves."
- Sen. Barack Obama, at a campaign stop Saturday, September 20, in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Check out the facts after the jump!

The facts:
Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain disagree over how to handle Social Security, and ensure its viability in the future.  One major difference involves privatization.  McCain supports allowing people to take some money they contribute toward Social Security and put it into "personal savings accounts." Obama believes such a move endangers retirement benefits.

On his Web site, McCain says he "supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts - but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept."  The Web site does not specify how those accounts would operate.  But McCain supported President Bush's plan in 2005 to allow some workers to place a limited amount of their payroll taxes into private accounts, which would have been invested in stock or bond funds.

That proposal - which never came to a vote - limited participation to people born in 1950 or later.  None of today's recipients of Social Security retirement benefits is old enough to have participated.  So, under the specific plan that McCain weighed in on, it is wrong to say that "the millions of Floridians who rely on" those benefits would have them tied to the stock market.  Some younger people who chose to participate would have their future benefits affected.

It's also important to note that we can't know whether the private funds President Bush proposed may ultimately have benefited someone who chose to participate.  And even with a prolonged stock downturn, it is incorrect to say that these nest eggs would "disappear," since the plan McCain supported would only allow for a portion of someone's Social Security contributions to go into
a personal savings account.  And McCain himself describes the accounts he espouses as "supplementing" the current system - not replacing it.

With nearly 80 million Americans expected to become eligible for Social Security retirement benefits in the next two decades, the program presents a financial drain on a nation that is already trillions of dollars in debt.  It is a critical and controversial issue - and prime election fodder, particularly in swing states like Florida, in which votes among older citizens could make a huge difference.

Verdict: False. There is no basis for Obama to claim that "the millions" who rely on those benefits would be affected, or that anyone's nest egg would have "disappeared."  But McCain does support allowing some Social Security funds to enter the stock market in the future, while Obama does not.

Filed under: Fact Check
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Rob indetroit

    So much for the deregulator John MCbush.

    September 21, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  2. Donna from California

    I think it's true.

    September 21, 2008 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  3. Dylan

    Who decides what to do with privatized Social Security benefits if accounts go bankrupt in light of the recent Wall Street meltdown?

    So are we suppose to "reward" risk and bailout Social Security accounts while the people with responsible low risk accounts get charged with the costs?

    That's the whole reason why Social Security was have guaranteed money for survival when retired, no matter what happens to the stock market or world economy.

    September 21, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  4. Black Republican Voting for McCain

    just shows more Obama lies.

    McCain '08

    September 21, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  5. Joe, Pomona, California

    The point is, privatization of social security would have put the well-being of future recipients at terrible risk. That is TRUE. Once again, the judgement of Bush/McCain proves less than sagacious.

    September 21, 2008 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  6. annette

    Who's checking the fact check???

    September 21, 2008 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  7. Ork

    McCain Voted for Bushs 2006 Social Security Privatization Plan. In 2006, McCain voted for the Social Security Reserve Fund. The proposal would shift Social Securitys annual surpluses into a reserve account that would be converted into risky private accounts. [SCR 83, Vote #68, 3/16/06; SCR 83, Vote #68, 3/16/06]

    September 21, 2008 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  8. RyanD.

    How is it false??

    Your own statement doesn't back it up.

    September 21, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  9. Don

    That's right, Barack. Don't let pesty facts get in the way of a cute soundbite for one of your attack ads.

    September 21, 2008 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |