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How's Social Security Work? Don't Ask Sharron Angle Or Joe "Pyramid Scheme" Heck

A new report from Roll Call reveals that Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle had no idea how Social Security worked as recently as her last Senate bid.

Sadly, Angle’s 2016 primary opponent, Rep. Joe Heck, doesn’t have much better a track record on the essential program counted on by millions of American seniors. Heck disparaged Social Security as a “pyramid scheme,” and later refused to apologize for his comments. And Heck’s threat to seniors doesn’t stop at his reckless rhetoric: he’s also proposed partial privatization of the vital program.

Sharron Angle’s lack of understanding of Social Security is embarrassing and it does not inspire confidence — but Joe Heck’s own “pyramid scheme” ignorance and quest for partial privatization are equally alarming.

Read more here.
 
Background:

Joe Heck on Social Security

Called Social Security A “Pyramid Scheme”

VIDEO: In 2011, Heck Called Social Security A “Pyramid Scheme” That Was Not Working

VIDEO: Heck Said Social Security Was A “Pyramid Scheme” That Was Not Working.According to a video posted by Americans United, Heck said, “The full retirement age is 67 and the lifespan is 80, so when they first conceived up Social Security, they didn’t think they would be paying benefits for 13, 15 years. That’s one of the reasons why this pyramid schemes isn’t working!” [Americans United For Change, 6/2/11]

  • Heck Doubled Down Immediately Afterwards, During The Same Event. According to a video posted by Americans United, Heck said, “Well, it is when people below you are paying for your benefits.” [Americans United For Change, 6/2/11]

 
2011: Heck Doubled Down On His Comments By Refusing To Apologize…

VIDEO, 2011: Following The “Disapproval,” Heck Did Not Apologize. According to the Associated Press, “‘The full retirement age is 67 and the lifespan is 80, so when they first conceived Social Security, they didn’t think they were going to be paying benefits for 13-15 years,’ Heck said at the time. ‘That’s one of the reasons why this pyramid scheme isn’t working.’  Heck didn’t apologize when the comment was met with disapproval from his audience.”  [Associated Press, 6/9/11; Americans United For Change, 6/2/11]

2011: Following The Public Outcry Due To His Remark, Heck Said He Meant To Call Social Security An “Upside-Down Pyramid.” According to the Associated Press, “U.S. Rep. Joe Heck said Thursday that he meant to describe Social Security as an upside-down pyramid when he called the popular federal program a ‘pyramid scheme’ that isn’t working.”  [Associated Press, 6/10/11]

VIDEO 2011: Heck Said “What Was Said In The Video Was Said In The Video.” Speaking on Face to Face, Heck said in response to whether he was going to back down from his Social Security comments, “what was said in the video was said in the video.” [Face to Face, 9/1/11]

“Pressed Further” On His Statements, Heck Doubled Down On “Pyramid Scheme” Comment.  According to the Associated Press, “Pressed further, he said, ‘It was a poor choice of words during the explanation. If I would have said it was pyramid shaped, it probably would have been a lot better, but I didn’t. It’s really an inverted pyramid if you think of it. I was just trying to give a graphic, a visual, to explain it’… Questioned again, Heck said he did not believe Social Security was a criminal program…Heck didn’t apologize when the comment was met with disapproval from his audience. “ [Associated Press, 6/10/11]

… And Defended Everything He Said “Was Factual”

June 2011: Heck Defended His Statement By Saying It Was “A Poor Choice Of Words” But That Everything He Said “Was Factual.”  According to the Associated Press, “Obviously, the way the statement came out, was it a poor choice of words? Probably,” he said. “But everything I said around it was factual.”  [Associated Press, 6/10/11]

  • 2011: Heck Claimed That Social Security Was Not Meant To Pay Benefits Out For 13 To 15 Years.  According to the Associated Press, “‘The full retirement age is 67 and the lifespan is 80, so when they first conceived Social Security, they didn’t think they were going to be paying benefits for 13-15 years,’ Heck said at the time. ‘That’s one of the reasons why this pyramid scheme isn’t working.’  Heck didn’t apologize when the comment was met with disapproval from his audience.”  [Associated Press, 6/9/11]

Heck Said That His Comments About Social Security Being A “Pyramid Scheme” Were Just Giving The Program A “Graphic, A Visual, To Explain It.” According to the Associated Press, “The Nevada Republican said he wanted to create a visual to describe the program and the shrinking ratio between people paying into the system and people collecting benefits.

‘Obviously, the way the statement came out, was it a poor choice of words? Probably,’ he said. ‘But everything I said around it was factual.’ Pressed further, he said, ‘It was a poor choice of words during the explanation. If I would have said it was pyramid shaped, it probably would have been a lot better, but I didn’t. It’s really an inverted pyramid if you think of it. I was just trying to give a graphic, a visual, to explain it.’” [Associated Press, 6/10/11]

June 2011: Heck Told A Constituent Who Called Social Security A “Pyramid Scheme” That The Constituent Was “Exactly Right.” According to the Las Vegas Sun, “But Heck appeared to ricochet back Tuesday, when on CBS Radio’s ‘The Alan Stock Show,’ he told a caller who described Social Security as a pyramid scheme that he was ‘exactly right.’ Then this morning, on the Heidi Harris talk-radio show, Heck was back on damage control, calling his ‘pyramid scheme’ comment ‘a poor choice of words.’ […] ‘It’s a great question Robert and you’re exactly right,’ Heck said, before launching into his answer on Stock’s show. He did not directly correct the caller’s characterization of Social Security as a pyramid structure. Still, the drama that’s built around Heck’s apparent gaffe reveals a politician somewhat in limbo between conservatives who want him to endorse the notion that Social Security is a ‘pyramid scheme’ and moderates and liberals who were outraged by the comment.” [Las Vegas Sun, 6/8/11]

Reaction To Heck’s Extreme Comments

Las Vegas Sun: Heck Made An “Unfortunate Description” Of Social Security As A “Ponzi Scheme.” According to Las Vegas Sun: Blogs, “Heck’s unfortunate description of Social Security as a ‘Ponzi scheme’ will haunt him like a Sharron Angle video clip come next year. And like Heller, he will have to defend votes Democrats will characterize as a senior citizen apocalypse.” [Las Vegas Sun: Blogs, 12/7/11]

Las Vegas Sun Editorial: Heck Did A “Disservice” To His Constituents By Not Honestly Discussing Social Security. According to an editorial in the Las Vegas Sun, “By not honestly discussing the issue, Heck is doing a disservice to his constituents, many of whom are counting on Social Security in their retirement. This is important because if the system truly were ready to collapse, it would bolster the Republican claim that radical change is needed.” [Editorial – Las Vegas Sun, 6/10/11]

2012: Heck Continued To Defend His Remarks That Social Security Was A “Pyramid Scheme”

July 2012: Heck “Did Not Back Down From” His Remark That Social Security Was A “Pyramid Scheme.” According to the National Journal, “But the 50-year-old incumbent, trim from his years as an Army reservist, has had early political missteps as well. Beyond the ‘pyramid scheme’ remark—which Heck did not back down from in an interview, saying ‘it doesn’t make a difference what term is used to describe a program’ if you want to mend it—he has been in the news for his wife collecting unemployment benefits.” [National Journal – Wayback Machine, 7/22/12]

July 2012: Heck Said It Did Not “Make A Difference” That He Called Social Security A “Pyramid Scheme.” According to the National Journal, “But the 50-year-old incumbent, trim from his years as an Army reservist, has had early political missteps as well. Beyond the ‘pyramid scheme’ remark—which Heck did not back down from in an interview, saying ‘it doesn’t make a difference what term is used to describe a program’ if you want to mend it—he has been in the news for his wife collecting unemployment benefits.” [National Journal – Wayback Machine, 7/22/12]

  • Heck Defended His Remark By Saying He Wanted To “Mend” Social Security.According to the National Journal, “But the 50-year-old incumbent, trim from his years as an Army reservist, has had early political missteps as well. Beyond the ‘pyramid scheme’ remark—which Heck did not back down from in an interview, saying ‘it doesn’t make a difference what term is used to describe a program’ if you want to mend it—he has been in the news for his wife collecting unemployment benefits.” [National Journal – Wayback Machine, 7/22/12]

 

Heck’s Proposed Social Security Privatization Option

2010: Heck Proposed New Entrants To Social Security Be Given The Option To Invest Some Of Their Share Of Social Security In Other “Diverse Markets”
2010: Heck Said He Supported A “Voluntary Second Option For Investing” Social Security Funds. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Angle favors privatizing Social Security, saying she wants to ‘transition out’ the current system, while Heck wants a voluntary second option for investing. He would like to see a Social Security program in which people can choose to invest their dollars in diverse markets. Employers would continue contributing to the existing Social Security system.” [Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/10]

Heck Supported “Diversified Investment” Of Social Security Taxes, With Each Individual Deciding Where To Invest. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Heck, a doctor, thinks diversified investment — not privatization — is the solution. He favors granting future Social Security recipients the option of investing their share of Social Security taxes in the private market. Heck is not calling for mandatory private investment, nor does he want to dismantle public Social Security. Instead, he advocates allowing people to decide how they want to invest, be it in Social Security, the stock market or gold.” [Las Vegas Sun, 9/10/10]

  • Individuals Who Diversified Would Not Receive The Same Monthly Payment Amount As An Individual Who Fully Invested In The Social Security System.According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Employers would continue to contribute to the existing Social Security system, and the government would not guarantee people’s private investments. A person who chose to diversify would not receive the same monthly payment as someone invested fully in the system.” [Las Vegas Sun, 9/10/10]

2010: Heck Said He Supported A Social Security Program In Which People Could “Choose To Invest Their Dollars In Diverse Markets.” According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Angle favors privatizing Social Security, saying she wants to ‘transition out’ the current system, while Heck wants a voluntary second option for investing. He would like to see a Social Security program in which people can choose to invest their dollars in diverse markets. Employers would continue contributing to the existing Social Security system.” [Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/10]

  • Heck Maintained That “Employers Would Continue Contributing To The Existing Social Security System.”According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Angle favors privatizing Social Security, saying she wants to ‘transition out’ the current system, while Heck wants a voluntary second option for investing. He would like to see a Social Security program in which people can choose to invest their dollars in diverse markets. Employers would continue contributing to the existing Social Security system.” [Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/10]

2012: Heck Again Brought Up The Idea Of Allowing People To “Pay Into A Private Account” Of Social Security

VIDEO: In October 2012, Heck Said We Needed To “Look At” Allowing People To “Pay Into A Private Account” Of Social Security. During the 2012 Congressional District 3 debate, Joe Heck said, “So the first thing to help shore up Social Security is get the economy started, get people back to work, so that more people are paying into the system. After that we need to look at other ways to increase the solvency of the program for the out years. And that could include allowing people to pay into a private account, it could include changing the retirement age, it could include raising the cap on the amount of earnings to which social security is taxed.” [2012 Congressional District 3 debate, Vegas PBS, Uploaded To YouTube 10/13/12]

Media Reaction

Las Vegas Sun: Heck’s Partial Privatization Proposal Would Cause The Federal Government To Have “Even Less Money To Pay Retirees’ Benefits”

Heck’s Proposal Would Have Caused An Issue For The Federal Government, Since It Would Have Less Money Than It Already Does To Pay Benefits. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “But Heck’s proposal would create a major problem. If people take money out of Social Security to invest it privately, the government will be left with even less money to pay retirees’ benefits.” [Las Vegas Sun, 9/10/10]

Ralston: Heck Was For “Voluntary Withdrawals”

Jon Ralston Op-Ed: “Heck’s Position On Social Security” Was “For Voluntary Withdrawals.” In an Op-Ed in the Las Vegas Sun, Jon Ralston wrote, “Heck’s position on Social Security is for voluntary withdrawals. That may be unworkable — if people pull out, how does the fund stay solvent? — but it’s not what Angle has proposed, despite AFSCME ads to the contrary.” [Op-Ed – Las Vegas Sun, 9/1/10]

2015: Heck Called For “More Cuts” To Social Security

October 2015: Heck “Wanted More Cuts” To Social Security. According to the Las Vegas Sun, “Republicans like Heck and Hardy wanted more cuts to mandatory programs like Medicare and Social Security and disagreed with the move to give the government borrowing authority until March 2017 — nearly four months after the presidential election. If the bill becomes law this week, it will avoid a potential government shutdown when the nation’s borrowing limit maxes out on Nov. 3.” [Las Vegas Sun, 10/28/15]

2012 – 2015: Heck Repeatedly Proposed Raising Retirement Age

VIDEO: In October 2012, Heck Said We Needed To “Look At” Raising The Retirement Age. During the 2012 Congressional District 3 debate, Joe Heck said, “So the first thing to help shore up Social Security is get the economy started, get people back to work, so that more people are paying into the system. After that we need to look at other ways to increase the solvency of the program for the out years. And that could include allowing people to pay into a private account, it could include changing the retirement age, it could include raising the cap on the amount of earnings to which social security is taxed.” [2012 Congressional District 3 debate, Vegas PBS, Uploaded To YouTube 10/13/12]

August 2015: Heck Suggested Looking Into Raising The Retirement Age For Social Security To “69 As Opposed To 67” Over The “Next 24 Years.” According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, “‘One of the things that has been talked about is indexing the retirement age, increasing it by one month per year for the next 24 years,’ Heck said. ‘So that in 24 years from now, full retirement age would be 69 as opposed to 67. And if you did that you could extend the life and solvency for social security after 2070. And I think that should be looked at.”‘” [Reno Gazette-Journal, 8/11/15]

2015: Heck Advocated For Raising The Age Of Retirement To 69. According to KOLO News, Heck said, “Well, you know that happened six years ago and the Democrats have used it every campaign cycle for the last three campaigns and every time we’ve addressed the issue, that as much as they try to pigeonhole me on Social Security, the fact is we’ve got to fix Social Security. Increasing it [retirement age] by one month a year for the next 24 years so that 24 years from now, full retirement age will be 69 as opposed to 67. And if you did that, you could extend the life and solvency of Social Security out to 2070. So I think that’s something that should be looked at.” [KOLO, 8/12/15, 1:22-1:57]