Campaign Watchdog: Union's claims about Rand Paul and Social Security 'mostly true'

The Herald-Leader will fact-check statements made by candidates and their surrogates in the campaigns for Lexington mayor, the 6th Congressional District and U.S. Senate.

The statement: Rand Paul “supports privatizing Social Security and reducing benefits by raising the retirement age to 70.”

— Kentucky State AFL-CIO, in a mailer supporting Democrat Jack Conway’s campaign for the U.S. Senate against Republican Paul

The ruling: Mostly true

The facts: Privatizing Social Security would allow workers to control their own retirement money through personal investment accounts. It is a proposal to prevent Social Security's predicted financial shortfall in the future.

Although the AFL-CIO mailer leaves the impression that Paul might want to privatize Social Security for everyone, he had told the Herald-Leader in May he will not "abolish Social Security for retirees or near retirees, nor will I cut benefits."

However, he has advocated for allowing younger people to "opt out" of Social Security and said the retirement age "probably" needs to go to 70.

The AFL-CIO mailer notes a Feb. 22, 1998, Kentucky Educational Television show and a May 24, 2010, Huffington Post column as sources for its claims.

On the 1998 edition of Kentucky Tonight, Paul said younger workers should be allowed to "opt out" of Social Security and "get a better investment."

"Social Security is a bad investment for the working man," he said.

The Herald-Leader could find no evidence that Paul's position on partial privatization of Social Security for younger individuals has changed since that time.

In the Huffington Post article, syndicated columnist Mark Miller said Paul's solution for Social Security's long-term solvency problems "is boosting the retirement age to 70."

Nate Byer, a spokesman for the state AFL-CIO, said this week the labor union also used as a source for its mailer a May 15, 2010, report by cn|2 Politics.

"At a March 29 meeting with voters at the Manchester Pizza Hut, however, Paul said the Social Security eligibility age 'probably has to' go up to 70," cn|2 reported.

"It's hard to go around campaigning on that, it's about as unpopular of an issue as there is, but it probably has to happen," Paul said at the time. "We moved it to 67 gradually. Probably that's what you need to do again to 70."

When asked this week on the campaign trail if the AFL-CIO mailer was accurate and if he supports privatizing Social Security and raising the age to receive benefits, Paul responded by saying "there are a lot of solutions out there to try to fix it.

"All I've said is that a lot of these solutions will have to be discussed and difficult decisions will have to be made," he said. "The exact policy decisions are best done through a bipartisan commission."

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