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Why I'm Telling the Truth About Social Security

Republican candidates for president are engaged in a robust debate about the future of our nation and world. Voters are being presented with some clear choices.

My priority is job creation, as it has been in jobs-leader Texas. Another candidate believes government mandated health care is the model for the nation. There’s robust debate about America’s military presence around the world.

But there are a few things all the candidates seem to agree on, including the belief that President Obama must be defeated, and Social Security’s financing is broken and unsustainable in the long run.

The American people want and deserve a leader who shoots straight. The days that liberals could effectively scare people about Medicare and Social Security are history.

I believe, and some recent conservative electoral victories prove, that if Americans are simply presented with the facts, they can and will draw their own logical conclusions.

That’s why I’m speaking honestly about the future of Social Security. The fact is that Social Security’s financing system is broken. It must be fixed.

We can and must protect benefits for those who are currently retired or nearing retirement age. And we can and must discuss reforming and fixing it to provide better retirement security for younger workers.

And the truth about Social Security is this: it has trillions of dollars in unfunded liability. Last year, the amount of money that went out was more than the amount that came in for the first time since 1983.

The Congressional Budget office projects that the problem will worsen as more Baby Boomers retire each year. And by 2037, retirees will only receive about 76 cents for every dollar that is put into Social Security.

Anyone who calls that a model of sustainability or success probably believes in President Obama’s definition of “economic recovery.”

I wrote in my book last year about the perils of discussing entitlement reform: “Seniors might think you want to cut the benefits they have paid for. Politicians will seek to take advantage, stirring up fear about benefits that will be lost if you elect another ‘heartless Republican.’”

The liberals are at it again, serving Americans the same stale, reheated rhetorical leftovers year after year. They don’t realize that the American people are ready for the truth.

In his recent book, Mitt Romney compared Social Security to a criminal enterprise, saying that if the same shenanigans took place in the private sector, people “would go to jail.” As he writes, “To put it in a nutshell, the American people have been effectively defrauded out of their Social Security.”

That was then, this is now. In recent days, Mr. Romney has hit the campaign trail sounding like those old Democrats intent on scaring seniors with falsehoods and distortions. It’s the kind of ridiculous “boogeyman” talk you would expect to hear from a liberal Democrat, not a leading Republican presidential candidate.

For my part, I will continue to speak honestly and frankly about the dire financial challenges facing Social Security, as well as the need to preserve benefits for current recipients and those nearing retirement while reforming the system so that it’s viable for younger workers.

America can handle an adult conversation. We know Washington is a mess, government is too big and spending too much, and serious reforms must be made to protect our families, our economy and our nation in the years to come.

In the race for the presidency, I trust your ability to listen for the truth, to draw your own conclusions and choose the right course to get America working again.

Rick Perry is governor of Texas and a Republican presidential candidate.