(The Hill) — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said it’s time to take a “political risk” and consider changes to Social Security and Medicare benefits for young people.
Changes to the programs are necessary, or they could run out of money for everyone in about a decade as the country faces a rising national debt, the presidential candidate said.
“The most disgusting part of Joe Biden’s State of the Union address this year was when he stood up, and he said, ‘We’ll all agree, right? We’re not going to do anything to Social Security?’ And both sides got up and cheered,” Christie said at conservative radio host Erick Erickson’s conference in Atlanta on Saturday.
“[They’re] a group of liars and cowards, because they know they know that in 10 years, Medicare will be bankrupt. And in 11 years, Social Security will be bankrupt.”
The fund behind Social Security is on track to become insolvent in about a decade, according to federal analysis. If that happens, it can only pay out the amount of money it receives, meaning the average benefit would reduce significantly.
A study from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget this week found that benefits for the average retired couple would drop by over $17,000 per year if the fund becomes insolvent in 2033, as projected.
Christie proposed raising the benefit eligibility age for Americans currently under 50 years old. Only impacting younger people gives them time to plan for the change, he said.
“We can make real savings over the long term by playing with eligibility age,” he said.
He called eligibility changes a necessary conversation that has “scared” Republicans in the past, and is a non-starter for Democrats.
“We have got to have this conversation. And other than me, nobody in this race is willing to talk about it. It’s ridiculous,” Christie said.
The former governor also proposed means testing for benefits, meaning that only people under a certain income threshold would be eligible to receive them. He didn’t specify where that eligibility threshold would be in his plan.
“I’m sure he’s collecting it, but Warren Buffett does not need Social Security,” he said.
Entitlement cuts were part of a larger federal budget debate in March. While some conservatives floated ideas to change the programs, Republicans eventually agreed not to touch Social Security or Medicare in budget negotiations.
Social Security and other entitlement spending makes up nearly half of the federal budget.
Christie is currently polling in fifth among candidates, according to national averages, with about 3 percent support. He will attend the first GOP debate in Wisconsin next week.