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Reality Check: Feingold Ad Contrasts Social Security Views

Published On: Oct 20 2010 05:41:48 AM CDT   Updated On: Oct 20 2010 07:23:45 AM CDT

WISC-TV is continuing its We the People Wisconsin Fact Finder reports by looking at an ad from U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold that raises questions about his opponent's plans for Social Security.

In the ad, Democrat Feingold gets very literal in his interpretation of how his opponent, Republican Ron Johnson, would treat Social Security, comparing a table full of junk to ideas to change the program.

"Mr. Johnson says, where Social Security is concerned, everything is on the table, even privatization for some," Feingold says in the ad.

A WISC-TV analysis found this needs clarification. Johnson said he would try to fix a system in distress.

"I'm going to go there and I'm going to address those problems, and I'm willing to take a look at all the options," said Johnson at a July luncheon. "They all have to be on the table. It's going to require a bipartisan approach."

Does that mean privatization? A spokeswoman for Johnson said he would not support "mandatory privatization," but is "willing to look at other possibilities."

For example, Johnson has called Paul Ryan's "Roadmap for America's Future" plan "courageous." Ryan's plan includes an "option" of privatization, where workers could move Social Security taxes into private accounts. Feingold clearly opposes privatization of any kind.

"Here's my position," Feingold says in the ad, as he shoves knick-knacks on a table to the floor. "I oppose turning any part of Social Security over to Wall Street. That's why the national group to preserve Social Security supports me, Russ Feingold."

It's true that the group has endorsed Feingold; however, not everything is off his table to change the program. While Feingold wouldn't privatize Social Security, he said he would entertain raising the wage base for those paying into Social Security. Right now, those making more than $106,000 pay a pre-set amount. Feingold would consider raising that cap so wealthier Americans would pay more into the fund.

If you have a question or a claim for our We the People Wisconsin Fact Finder team to check out, send it to us at

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