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Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, left, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP) Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, left, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP)

Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, left, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg October 28, 2022

Mark Kelly misrepresents Blake Masters’ current Social Security stance in Arizona Senate race

If Your Time is short

  • During the primaries, Republican Blake Master said, “Maybe we should privatize Social Security.”

  • After he won the primary, he said in a newspaper interview, “I do not want to privatize Social Security.”

In the final weeks before the midterm elections, Democrats nationwide are warning voters that Republicans pose a threat to Social Security. In a newspaper interview, Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly leveled that charge against Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Kelly had been in Yuma, Arizona, meeting with voters.

"Yuma has a lot of retirees," Kelly said in an interview with a reporter from the Washington Examiner, a conservative news outlet,  Oct. 26. "My opponent? He wants to send their Social Security to Wall Street. He wants to privatize it. He wants to cut the knot. He refers to Social Security in some negative way and he wants to give it to Wall Street."

During the Republican primary, Master floated the idea of privatization, but he retreated from the idea after he won the GOP nomination.

What Masters said in the primary

At a June debate in Arizona, the Republican Senate candidates were asked about reports of Medicare and Social Security going insolvent in future years.

"What should be done to keep the promise that the federal government made to current beneficiaries?" the moderator asked. "What should retirement security or financial freedom look like for the next generation?"

Masters, 36, brought up privatization, saying:

"We do need entitlement reform, but we can’t just slash entitlements; it’s more complicated than that, right? We can’t pull the rug out from seniors who are currently receiving Social Security, who are currently receiving Medicare. People have built their financial lives around these programs. And so, how to reform the system in a way that doesn’t actually hurt the people who paid into it, right?

"We’ve got to cut the knot at some point, though, because, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to receive Social Security. … My kids, they’re not going to receive Social Security. And we need fresh and innovative thinking, right? Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it, past a certain point, because the government, it is just too big."

At another time, Masters told a voter that, "I don’t think we should, like, mess with Social Security," but he also said he favored loosening restrictions on investment accounts for young people.

Social Security relies on dedicated payroll taxes to cover the cost of benefits to retirees. The program is out of balance and is spending more each year than it takes in. 

Featured Fact-check

Privatization would let people take the money that would have gone toward Social Security and put it into private retirement funds. It’s a contentious proposal. Some analysts say privatization would reduce the draw on public benefits decades later; other analysts warn that diverting money from the public program would drain it of the funds it needs to survive.

A shift of emphasis in the general election

After he won the primary, Masters sat down with an Arizona Republic reporter. Asked about his past words about Social Security, Masters said he was "committed to shoring up the system, and making it work."

"I do not want to privatize Social Security," Masters said. "I think, in context, I was talking about something very different. We can't change the system. We can't pull the rug out from seniors. I will never, ever support cutting Social Security."

PolitiFact rated Masters’ shift as a Half Flip on our Flip-O-Meter, which rates an official's consistency on an issue. A Half Flip reflects a partial change in position.

In a recent interview, Masters said he was committed to preserving Social Security and would never cut it.

"People have built their whole lives around relying on the government’s promises that Social Security will be there," Masters said on "The Charlie Kirk Show" on Oct. 26. "So, we have to protect it. I’m looking for ways to save the system."

The Kelly campaign doesn’t argue that Masters has stopped talking about privatization. It just doesn’t believe it.

"Masters clearly previously said that he supports privatizing Social Security," said Kelly campaign spokeswoman Sarah Guggenheimer. "We’d argue that he should be held accountable for those words, and no amount of backtracking can disguise where he actually stands."

Our ruling

Kelly said Masters "wants to privatize" Social Security.

During the primary, Masters said "maybe, we should privatize Social Security." He no longer mentions that option and says he’s looking for ways to preserve the program for anyone who has counted on it being there.

Kelly was speaking in the present tense and Masters is saying something different today.

Kelly’s statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate his claim Mostly False.

RELATED: Democrats attack Republican Social Security plans. What’s in them?

Our Sources

Washington Examiner, Exclusive with Mark Kelly, 'border is a crisis', Oct. 26, 2022

PolitiFact, Blake Masters’ stance on privatizing Social Security shifted after primary, Aug. 25, 2022

Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania, Prospects for Social Security Reform, 1999

Charlie Kirk Show, Interview with Blake Masters, Oct. 26, 2022

Arizona Republic, "'It's time for something new': Blake Masters brings fire, more nuance to Arizona's Senate race," (via Nexis) Aug. 8, 2022

Arizona Republic, "Blake Masters isn't just moderating on issues. He's done a full 180," Aug. 10, 2022

Email exchange, Sarah Guggenheim, spokeswoman, Kelly for Senate, Oct. 27, 2022

Email exchange, Katie Miller, adviser, Masters for Senate, Oct. 27, 2022

 

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Mark Kelly misrepresents Blake Masters’ current Social Security stance in Arizona Senate race

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