Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie worked to cast himself in a different light from other Republicans on entitlement program policy in the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination.
Mr. Christie suggested that “political risk” was needed to make changes to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare at conservative radio host Erick Erickson’s conference, which featured other presidential hopefuls, in Atlanta on Saturday.
Mr. Christie, who is polling in sixth place according to national Republican presidential primary polling data, said that changes are needed in Social Security and Medicare because the programs are fast running out of money.
He called lawmakers in Congress “liars and cowards” for not wanting to make changes to the entitlement programs.
“They know that in 10 years, Medicare will be bankrupt.” Mr. Christie said. “And in 11 years, Social Security will be bankrupt.”
The Congressional Budget Office projected in a report last year that the Social Security program’s trust fund “would be exhausted” by 2033.
Mr. Christie suggested that eligibility requirements should change, like increasing the age eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. He said that eligibility changes were a necessary conversation to have.
“We have got to have this conversation,” Mr. Christie said. “And other than me, nobody in this race is willing to talk about it, it’s ridiculous.”
Social Security benefits and other entitlement programs constitute about half of the federal budget. Cuts to those programs were front and center in the battle over the debt ceiling deal earlier this year.
Republicans pushed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to include changes, like adding a subsidized, privatized Medicare option and means-testing for Social Security benefits, into the package. However, the changes did not make their way into the final product.
Mr. Christie similarly proposed means-testing in his vision for changes to Social Security. That would mean that only people under a certain income threshold would be able to receive benefits from the program.
“I’m sure he’s collecting it, but Warren Buffett does not need Social Security,” Mr. Christie said.