The Non-Debate Over Social Security

Through most of last year it seemed as if Social Security would be a big issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.

It hasn't happened . . . at least so far.

At the GOP debate in Arizona, for example, only one candidate - Rick Santorum - went so far as to mention Social Security, and then pretty much only in passing. Even though he's the only presidential candidate who's called for immediate cuts in Social Security benefits ("We need to change benefits for everybody now," he said last month), none of his rivals made an issue of it - we're talking literally here - and CNN's John King, the moderator of the debate, didn't touch it, either.

Santorum drew laughter when he joked that "all my rich seniors moved to Florida and Arizona and what's left in Pennsylvania is folks who rely on Social Security." Then, in the blink of an eye, he was on to attacking Ron Paul's conservative credentials.

The issue never came back. Odd, considering that Arizona is home to more than 750,000 Social Security beneficiaries who are 65 and older - not to mention the more than 37 million Americans in that category nationwide.

Maybe next time? Well, only if there is a next time. The 20th debate of the Republican presidential contest may be the last one, which means that we might have to wait for quite a while to see if Social Security - long branded "the third rail of American politics" - still is.  - Bill Hogan

Search AARP Blogs