News from the Virginia Senate debate: Neither side wants Bowles-Simpson, George Allen wouldn’t force anyone out of Social Security

News from the Virginia Senate debate: Neither side wants Bowles-Simpson, George Allen wouldn’t force anyone out of Social Security



C-Span televised the final encounter of Virginia Senate candidates Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) last night. Kaine has an enviable ability to stay cheerful while crisp, on-point in rebuttal while upbeat. That kind of internal energy is refreshing to see. Virginia enjoys the distinction in 2012 of having two former governors running for senate, one of them—Allen—also a former senator.

Thus part of the meeting involved the candidates each bulleting reminders about the other’s track record in office. Kaine got the better of the exchanges: he speaks faster, stays clear, doesn’t get tongue-twisted, and has a sharp memory. Also he had more to work with than Allen did.



Allen, for his part, targeted the old-fashioned white vote to some extent, attempting to tie Kaine to President Obama as though that were the recipe for victory. Kaine came off better in that one, too, emphasizing national-state partnership as well as public-private partnership. He did not run away from Obama or from the administration.


Debate forum at Virginia Tech

Allen also referred to “this sequestration deal” (in Congress) more than once, pejoratively.

Given the opportunity to repudiate the debt-ceiling deal (sequestration), however, Allen pfaffed. Moderator Jay Warren, of WSLS-TV, asked both candidates point-blank whether they would vote for the Bowles-Simpson plan of tax hikes and spending cuts “as is.” Allen instantly riposted that Bowles-Simpson was “the president’s idea.” On the direct question he was less emphatic, saying that some parts of Bowles-Simpson need changing while other provisions are good, referring to the deficit, but declining to say that he would vote for Bowles-Simpson. Kaine got the same question and after some repetition, back-and-forth, and cross-talk, summed up both his and Allen’s response: “No, and no.”

Moderator Warren stuck with that answer, quitting while ahead.

It would be interesting to find out whether any senate candidate, in a competitive race, anywhere in the U.S., supports Bowles-Simpson unequivocally.

Kaine’s question for Allen was at least equally significant: Kaine asked Allen whether he would privatize Social Security. Allen did not come up with the right answer, a direct ‘No’. Instead he declared, “I would never force anyone out of Social Security. He did mention “income adjustment,” without defining the adjustment envisioned.

Forcing someone out of Social Security is not usually on the table in discussing entitlement programs. A central flaw in the privatization ideas floated is that they might entice younger workers not to get into Social Security.

This is exactly the possibility hinted at in Republican talking points about ‘choice’. You can ‘choose’, under some plans, to gamble your retirement on the stock market instead of placing it in a stable program. (Social Security, by the way, does not increase the federal budget deficit. Quite the contrary.)

Predictions are vain, but somehow it is hard to imagine Allen re-capturing the Virginia senate seat he lost to Jim Webb, even without a ‘macaca moment’.


They’re all using the same playbook. Connecticut GOP senatorial candidate Linda McMahon, of World Wrestling Federation fame, also declined to say what exactly she would recommend for Social Security and Medicare. McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy also appeared in debate last night. Murphy, like Kaine, leads in recent polling.

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