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After much criticism, Texas governor Rick Perry is attempting to soften his criticism on social security. This marks his fourth flip on the issue. Perry, the current front-runner in the Republican presidential nomination, wrote an op-ed piece on Monday for USA Today. Although he still maintained that social security needs to be overhauled, he refrained from some of the more inciting rhetoric he has favored in the past.
Instead of calling the system a “ponzi scheme,” he wrote of “dire financial challenges facing the nearly 80-year old program” and emphasized the need to protect benefits for current recipients and those “nearing retirement.” In his article, entitled “I am going to be honest with the American people,” Perry stated that older workers would still be protected. “For younger workers, we must consider reforms to make Social Security financially viable.”
“I am going to be honest with the American people. Our elected leaders must have the strength to speak frankly about entitlement reform if we are to right our nation’s financial course and get the USA working again. For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security and make it financially viable for generations to come,” Perry wrote in his short piece.
Despite the change in tone, it is unclear how long this will last. When he first jumped into the race, Perry attempted to distance himself from his book, “FED UP!” where he first described social security as a “ponzi scheme.” However, last week at the Republican debate, the governor doubled down on his initial assessment, repeating the phrase and calling social security, “a monstrous lie.”
Other presidential candidates have criticized Perry for his remarks; however, the statements have not hurt him in the polls. A new CNN/Tea Party Express poll out Monday showed Perry with the same lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as he had two weeks ago, 30 percent to 18 percent. Perry also is leading Romney over electability.
Forty-two percent of voters believe that Perry could beat President Obama compared to Romney’s 26 percent. Rep. Michele Bachmann continues slipping, dropping to four percent in the poll, down from ten percent just two weeks ago.