Cain vs. Gingrich proved to be less Lincoln-Douglas than Lincoln-Lincoln, particularly on our greatest economic challenge: entitlement reform,
In 1858, U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas was facing a tough reelection challenge in Illinois from former Congressman Abraham Lincoln. A serious, reasoned America was at the height of debate over the fundamental human rights challenge posed by its contradictory maintenance of the vile institution of slavery, in the most path-breaking, classical liberal nation in the world.
Lincoln and Douglas held seven 3-hour debates in that reelection fight. First one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other for 90 minutes, then the first for another 30 minutes. Crowds came from other states to hear and see the epic intellectual battles between the two. Newspapers sent stenographers to record the debates with the crude technology of the time.
Douglas, the then famous incumbent so well connected throughout Illinois, won that election. But Lincoln won the debates, publishing them in a book and riding them to the Republican nomination and then the White House in 1860.
On Friday night, November 4, GOP Presidential frontrunner Herman Cain and surging challenger Newt Gingrich, second in Iowa in the most recent poll, brought that same reasoned seriousness back to America by joining one on one in their own Lincoln-Douglas style debate sponsored by the Texas Tea Party at the Woodlands Resort and Conference Center outside Houston.
The topic of the debate was the most serious economic challenge of our time: entitlement reform. I personally attended, and was gratified to hear the two cite me by name and my lifelong work on entitlement reform multiple times.
Social Security Prosperity
Somehow the two men managed to address the most complex domestic policy issue facing our nation without media all stars from CNN and NBC devising the brilliant questions for them to answer. Prompted only by brief, intermittent questioning from two moderators, Congressman Steve King (R-IA) and Ben Streusand, the Texas Chairman of Americans for Prosperity, Cain and Gingrich engaged in extensive civil discussion back and forth, explaining more sophisticated solutions than the so-called mainstream media has been able to explore in any forum or format, debate or otherwise.
Cain is highly knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining. Gingrich, set free from absurd 30 second limits on answers, unleashed an encyclopedia of fundamental entitlement reforms, presenting a pro-growth, freedom and prosperity vision of modern, 21st century safety nets. The fact that the two agreed virtually on everything shows how deep into the Republican Party these sweeping, fundamental reforms have penetrated.
Conservatives take heart; these reforms would cut federal spending in half from where it would be otherwise, saving the American Dream. I know. The reforms reflect a lifetime of my own work.
Cain has repeatedly and wisely expressed his support for path-breaking personal accounts for Social Security. But Gingrich has presented a thorough vision of such reform, starting with his new Contract with America, detailed in probably the most thorough campaign document ever to be released this week, and discussed at the debate.
Gingrich proposes freedom for younger workers to choose to save and invest at least part of what they would otherwise pay in payroll or income taxes into personal savings, investment and insurance accounts. Over an entire working career, at just standard, long term, market investment returns, workers of all family combinations and income levels would accumulate several hundred thousand dollars in these accounts after inflation, approaching a million dollars or even more in some cases depending on how big the option is over their careers.
Those accumulated funds would pay all workers of all income levels much higher benefits than Social Security even promises let alone what it could pay. Retirees would each be free to choose to leave any portion of these funds to their children at death.
To the extent each worker chooses to exercise this account option, the account benefits would substitute for a portion of future SS benefits. Through this process alone, all future Social Security deficits would be eliminated without tax increases or benefit cuts, because the accounts take over so much responsibility for paying future benefits. Indeed, because of the real investment returns earned by the accounts, future retirees would enjoy higher rather than lower benefits. If the accounts are eventually expanded sufficiently, they would eliminate completely the unfunded liability of Social Security, which would be the greatest reduction in government debt in world history.
With workers financing their own benefits through their own savings and investment, they can be free to individually choose their own retirement age, rather than the government choosing it for them. Moreover, they would have market incentives to choose on their own to delay their own retirement ages as long as possible, because the longer they wait the more they would accumulate in their accounts, and the higher benefits those accounts could pay.
Because the personal accounts shift the payment of future Social Security benefits off of federal taxes and spending to real private savings and investment instead, they result in the largest, most dramatic reductions in federal spending in world history.
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