Jim Minucci, 76, backs Mitt Romney and his idea to gradually raise the age of eligibility for younger workers. â€œIf we continue to spend and take money from Social Security, I think in the long run itâ€™s going to be hurting,â€ Minucci said as he walked through a town square here to meet his wife for lunch.
But Bill LeBeau argues that retirees should get more to keep up with inflation and likes Newt Gingrichâ€™s call for creating private investment accounts for younger workers. â€œThat would be really good,â€ said LeBeau, 89, as he held a cigar while sitting in a golf cart adorned with an American flag and a â€œGod Bless Americaâ€ bumper sticker.
On this recent day at least, there seemed to be little discussion here, in Floridaâ€™s largest retirement community, about former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorumâ€™s pitch even though itâ€™s the most aggressive position of any of the Republican presidential candidates. He wants to lower benefits for wealthier retirees, raise the age to qualify for full benefits and restrict inflation increases in benefits.
â€œWe need to change benefits for everybody now,â€ says Santorum, who campaigned in this area this week. â€œWe canâ€™t wait 10 years.â€
For decades, the idea of tinkering with the retirement safety net was taboo for politicians. That was especially true in Florida, which has the highest proportion of people age 65 or over, its 2.8 million seniors second only to California. But with the skyrocketing costs of entitlement programs boosting the nationâ€™s debt, the Republican candidates are advocating for changes they say will ensure future retirees can draw benefits.
Of the GOP front-runners, Romney wants to preserve benefits for people 55 and over but would, for the next generations of retirees, raise the retirement age for full benefits one or two years. The former Massachusetts governor also wants to reduce inflation increases in benefits for wealthier recipients.
Gingrich, the former House speaker, supports giving younger workers the option of diverting Social Security taxes to private retirement accounts. Employers would still pay their share to the federal government, which would protect private account holders in the event of a huge drop in stock markets.
President Barack Obama, who is seeking re-election, hasnâ€™t proposed any changes in current or future benefits and has instead called for a bipartisan look at how to strengthen the program. He supported the $250 payment to Social Security recipients in the 2009 federal stimulus package and has called for a second $250 payment to beneficiaries.
The issue is all but certain to be a major one in Florida, both in the GOP primary on Jan. 31 and in the general election. An estimated 31 percent of people who voted in Floridaâ€™s general election in 2010 were 65 or older, and they voted at a higher rate than any other age group. Seniors made up 33 percent of voters in the 2008 GOP primary, the highest share of any state with a GOP exit poll that year.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/even-as-florida-retirees-fret-about-social-security-a-consensus-on-how-to-fix-it-is-elusive/2012/01/25/gIQA5cXcPQ_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop