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Rich Lowry has an optimistic column out today touting what he calls the “Honesty Caucus” — essentially, Tea Party inspired candidates who have been willing to speak the truth about our looming entitlement crisis. The problem is, in an article aimed at highlighting gutsy Republican candidates, Lowry could only muster two examples (other than current Rep. Paul Ryan).
In his column, Lowry praises Rand Paul and Marco Rubio for their openness. While Rubio has spoken of raising the retirement age, as I wrote last week, he’s also said that the time for personal accounts had “come and gone” — a position that at one time would have been grounds to brand him a RINO.
As even Lowry acknowledges, the GOP’s “Pledge to America” dodged the entitlement issue because serious reform was not a consensus position among Republican candidates (more here). In reality, it has been much more common to see Republicans running away from entitlement reform.
Take just these few examples of GOP candidates gunning for Democratic seats identified as “toss ups” by Cook Political Report…
Tom Ganley, a Republican candidate for the seat in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, takes this bold stand on Social Security on his website: “My views on Social Security are simple. I believe the retirement age should remain the same, that taxes should not be increased to benefit the program, the program should not be privatized and above all, the program should be protected.”
Sarah Palin endorsed Republican Paul Gosar in Arizona’s 1st District, writing on Facebook that he, “shares our belief that the federal government’s reckless spending is putting us on a dangerous path towards insolvency — and he’s determined to do something about that.” Yet here’s what Gosar has to say about Social Security on his website:
In addition to opposing the privatization of Social Security, I believe the retirement age should not be raised. We must protect benefits while keeping our agreement with seniors by not raising taxes.
Meanwhile, in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican candidate Scott Tipton has just run an ad in which he’s surrounded by senior citizens, attacking John Salazar for cutting Medicare as part of his vote for the new national health care law, and vowing, “I’ll never put our seniors’ future at risk. No cuts, no privatization, and no scaring our seniors just to try and win this election.”
Unfortunately, my experience is that these sort of statements on entitlements are much more common among this year’s crop of GOP candidates than are statements by candidates admitting hard truths, and that’s discouraging. In 2004, President Bush was willing to campaign on Social Security reform, and yet when he tried to get it passed the next year, he was stymied by a Republican Congress. While there may be a few standouts elected this year, it’s hard to see a new GOP majority being any better on entitlements than the prior GOP majority.