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i9 Fact Checker: Sen. Ernst doesn’t want to privatize social security

Published: Oct. 26, 2020 at 7:53 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Theresa Greenfield has run multiple ads attacking incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst on her stance on Social Security.

Source: This ad called “Nova” is straight from the Theresa Greenfield campaign

Claim #1: “Senator Ernst Wants to Privatize Social Security, gamble it on Wall Street.”

Analysis: According to a report from the trustees of Social Security, parts of the program are expected to run out of money in 2034. That’s a few months earlier than the date in early 2035, which was reported in 2018 because the costs of the program are rising faster than the income it receives from payroll taxes.

For decades, senators have discussed reforming the program to stop it from running out of money. Legislators have discussed several different options. Those include raising the retirement age, privatizing the program, reducing monthly payments, using alternative price indexes to determine adjustments to the program and more.

As part of those discussions, Ernst has repeatedly said she’s talked about privatizing social security as an option to avoid the program running out of money.

When she first ran for Senate in 2014, Ernst said she would explore younger workers transitioning into individual plans or individual savings accounts when she first ran for Senate. She said those plans could be tied to the market or on interest rates. She also stressed those changes wouldn’t affect today’s seniors.

KCRG-TV9 reached out to her campaign who told us the Senator doesn’t support privatizing social security.

Conclusion: Ernst has repeatedly said she’s discussed privatization as an option. But, discussing and being open to a possible solution does not indicate support. In fact, Ernst has not put forward any specific plan we could find on how to fix Social Security. That’s why this claim gets a C.

Claim #2: Text on the screen saying “Sen. Joni Ernst wants to gut social security behind closed doors”.

Analysis: Ernst said at a town hall lawmakers should discuss possible changes to social security behind closed doors to avoid scrutiny.

American Bridge 21st Century released the video. The organization is a democratic research group with a self-describing goal of finding out what Republicans are hiding and making sure voters hear about it.

Ernst has said in interviews with other outlets that she’s talked about this as an option but stressed that’s just her being open to finding a solution to the program.

Conclusion: Whether you think Ernst’s reforms would gut social security or save it is a matter of political debate. But she did advocate for closed-door discussions - something that happens frequently in Congress anyway. However, any final plan would still face a public debate and vote. That’s why this claim gets a B.

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