Former Florida state Senate Majority Leader Dan Webster, one of several Republicans seeking the nomination to run against Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, spoke out in favor of cutting Social Security benefits to balance the budget at a West Orlando Tea Party-sponsored forum on Thursday night in Winter Garden.

In doing so, Webster touched the program that former House Speaker Tip O’Neill called “the third rail of American politics.” A recent poll showed that 96 percent of Americans believe that Social Security belongs to the people who contributed it and their beneficiaries, and not the government.

Webster said he wanted to cut the budget to what it was in 2007. He said, “Does it get rid of TARP and health care and all of the other things, including the stimulus package? Yes, it does that. Does it take back some of the [Cost of Living Adjustments] for the entitlement programs? Yes, it does that, too. But it’s only three years ago. If we took that budget and passed it, it would self-balance in two more years.”

The Cost of Living Adjustments Webster was referring to are for Social Security payments. The Social Security Administration bases the increases on the Consumer Price Index. Because of a lack of inflation, there was no COLA for 2010. (In 2008 and 2009, these increases were 2.3 and 5.8 percent,respectively.)

Social Security, which celebrated its 75th anniversary last week, remains the most popular program ever created in the United States and large majorities of Americans oppose cutting benefits to reduce the deficit. Eighty-five percent of Americans oppose cutting it to reduce the deficit and 72 percent “strongly oppose” doing so. Ninety-eight percent of Americans do not see Social Security as a “major cause” of the budget deficit.

In the Florida’s District 8, 26 percent of households draw on Social Security income, according to the U.S. Census.

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