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By CNN's Wolf Blitzer
(CNN) – I have to give Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman some credit. He has the guts to suggest specific changes to the nation’s Social Security system – changes that are politically treacherous.
For a politician, whether Democratic or Republican, that’s always dangerous, given Social Security’s popularity, especially with older Americans who rely on it. And remember: older Americans vote in much higher percentages than younger Americans.
Huntsman, the former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China, offered three specific changes when I pressed him the other day.
He said he was open to changing the way annual Social Security increases are determined by changing the current cost-of-living formula. Practically speaking, he acknowledged, that means less money every month for recipients.
He also said that it would be a good idea to raise the retirement age since people are now living longer. “Maybe take it out to the 85th percentile of the average length of life,” he said.
Finally, he said that richer recipients don’t really need a Social Security check at all. They can afford to live without it even though they paid into the system their entire working lives. “They can afford to do otherwise,” he said.
Huntsman said those three changes “would be a good place to start this conversation.”
He noted that most politicians don’t have the courage to discuss Social Security reform even though it needs some serious fixing.
I must say that’s a pretty gutsy position.
Huntsman is trying to get some traction on the campaign trail. His poll numbers now are not impressive. I’ll be curious to see how his Social Security proposals play out.
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