CHEYENNE - In the heated race for Wyoming's U.S. House seat, the campaigns of Democrat Gary Trauner and Republican Cynthia Lummis traded barbs Friday over Lummis' statements about privatizing Social Security.
Trauner said the economic crisis and plunging stock markets illustrate why a Lummis proposal to privatize Social Security would risk Americans' ability to retire with financial security. The Lummis campaign countered that Trauner is misrepresenting Lummis' views on fixing Social Security.
Trauner said he supports maintaining and strengthening Social Security, which is predicted to become insolvent in coming decades. He called Lummis "out of touch" for her earlier assertion that many Americans view Social Security benefits as their sole retirement income.
"I don't know of any working people who don't save because they think that Social Security may be all they need," Trauner said. "However, in light of the stock market falling over 30 percent this year alone, it may be all that stands between them and a loss of dignity."
Tucker Fagan, campaign manager for the Lummis campaign, said Trauner has been twisting Lummis' position - in broadcast ads, mailings and phone calls - to scare people.
"This is taking something which is a philosophical argument and taking it and spinning it and saying, hey, I'm going to scare the people with this comment," Fagan said.
Fagan said Lummis' proposal wouldn't impact people currently paying into or receiving benefits from Social Security. Rather, Lummis believes the Social Security system is systematically flawed and needs to be studied for long-term solutions, Fagan said.
Lummis has said that a proposal to fix Social Security would be to privatize the program for people who have not yet entered the work force or who were born after a certain date.
Fagan said Friday that any government program allowing privatized accounts as part of Social Security would have to be studied to determine how much of a person's account could be privatized without jeopardizing the system.
"The idea of some privatization is to say, you know we have some pretty smart people in the United States and if you would choose to invest a part of that yourself you could do that," Fagan said.
For his part, Trauner said the government should study raising the cap from the $100,000 income limit on which Social Security taxes are levied. Currently, the program taxes income up to $100,000. Raising the cap would produce more money for Social Security.
Lummis has also suggested raising the retirement age for Social Security benefits. Trauner said he would only look at that option as a "last resort." Currently, normal retirement age for people born before 1938 is 65 and for people born after 1959 is 67.
"With some very minor tweaks and adjustments, Social Security will be there for me, for my kids and for future generations," Trauner said. "We just need the political will to stand up and do that."
Also Friday, Lummis announced that she had picked up endorsements from four fellow Republicans: Secretary of State Max Maxfied, State Auditor Rita Meyer, State Treasurer Joe Meyer and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jim McBride.