In Their Own Words: Feingold, Johnson on Social Security
MILWAUKEE - Newsradio 620 WTMJ posed six questions to Democrat Russ Feingold and Republican Ron Johnson. We gave each candidate the questions in advance and asked them to formulate 60 second answers that include specifics we can track during their term in office.
Each weekday leading up to the election we'll play you each major Senate candidate's answer to another question at 6:34 on Wisconsin's Morning News and 4:34 on the Greenhouse.
While it's not about to go bankrupt anytime soon, Social Security is not indefinitely sustainable at current levels. What specific changes do you believe the federal government needs to make to the program?
Transcript of response from Democratic Candidate Russ Feingold
"According to the most recent estimates of the Social Security trustees, Social Security is solvent and able to fund 100% of benefits until 2037, and then about 75% of benefits after that.
"We can take steps now to extend this solvency.
"One reform I support is that people all over the state have suggested that we do something to strengthen social security by getting at the wage base for the social security payroll tax.
"It's currently capped for incomes at $106,000 or less, so people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett pay the same amount into social security as a small business owner in many cases.
"So if we raise that cap, we can have wealthy people pay more of their fair share and strengthen the Social Security Trust Fund extending the solvency for decades.
"By contrast, privatizing social security, by diverting funds out of the program, and into private investment accounts actually hastens the insolvency date.
"So I'm for (the other) approach. Far from strengthening social security, privatizing greatly weakens the program."
Transcript of response from Republican Candidate Ron Johnson
""We need to recognize that we made promises to seniors, people who who have retired, or people who are about to retire.
"We have every capability in this country to honor those promises. I'm dedicated to honoring those promises.
"The fiscal issues facing social security have been known for decades.
"During Russ Feingold's tenure, over 18 years, we've had over $2.2 trillion in excess paid in the social security system that politicians like Russ Feingold have spent. The money's gone.
"I'll go to Washington with the dedication to actually making Social Security sustainable for future generations.
"We need to take a look at all the options, work in a bipartisan basis, in good faith. But the only two options I would take off the table: I would not support a job-killing payroll tax increase and I would never force private accounts on anyone."