Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul discuss Social Security

The 55 million Americans who receive Social Security benefits will be getting a raise in January of about 3.5 percent - the first cost of living increase in three years. Wyatt Andrews reports on the extra money and asks some retirees about how they'll use it.

Here's why anything can happen in the GOP presidential primary: In CBS News' latest national poll, 32 percent of Republicans tell us they're either undecided or would rather have someone else. That suggests that many voters would like to know more about where the candidates stand on the issues.

As the primary moves to New Hampshire, CBS News will look at plans to change Social Security. Sixty percent of New Hampshire seniors depend on Social Security for most of their income.

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CBS News examined the position of two of the leading candidates in the New Hampshire primary, Jon Huntsman and Ron Paul.

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports that Jon Huntsman is asked nearly every day on the campaign trail whether Social Security can be saved, and, if so, how. The solution is simple, he says, if we have the political will.

Voters, like financial planner Don Ladd, are asking about the future of the country's largest entitlement program.

"We're living much longer now, so there's a bigger draw on Social Security," Ladd says.

Candidate Page: Jon Huntsman

Huntsman says part of the problem lies in how Social Security is distributed: "We're gonna have to means test. It means those at the upper income categories are going to get less."

He also wants to change the formula for cost of living adjustments.

"We're gonna have to take the underlying assumptions for inflation to begin with and tie them more to real wage growth as opposed to the consumer price index," Huntsman says.

Huntsman says he also wants to push the age of full retirement from the current 66 to 68 by the year 2050.

"Moving back the eligibility age I think also is something that we have to seriously, seriously consider," Huntsman says.

Don Ladd says he likes the idea.

"The reason I think the plan is do-able is the changes are small, so each person is being asked to sacrifice a little bit," Ladd says.

Ladd also says - and polls confirm - it's going to be a tough sell to many Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers who say any sacrifice of benefits is too much.

Sacrifice is part of the plan for candidate Ron Paul, who offers the biggest change for Social Security.

Candidate Page: Ron Paul

CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports that Paul does not think much of Social Security. He's called it technically unconstitutional, a mess and a failure and he believes it's time to transition out of the program altogether.

Paul says he would not suddenly scrap Social Security, but would encourage younger workers to opt out of the system. Right now there's no choice. He favors a transitional period to allow young people to start saving their own money for their own retirement.

"Under 25, if they think that they don't want to depend on what's happening, I'd let them get out," Paul has said.

Without the young paying in, the system would eventually run out of money. When CBS News asked him about that, he declined to answer.

Paul agrees with the other Republicans in the race on extending the Bush tax cuts, and reducing corporate tax rates. He recognizes protecting Social Security for older Americans and still reaching a balanced budget would be difficult if not impossible without other steps.

At a town hall on Monday, he elaborated on how he would keep Social Security functioning for the time being: Cutting virtually all U.S. spending abroad.

"It makes no sense to spend much over a trillion dollars a year overseas. Why don't we spend that money here at home?" Paul asked.

Unless something is done, Paul believes the current system of Social Security will eventually bankrupt the country.

  • Bill Whitaker

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