Transcript: Obama and Clinton Debate

So this is an option that I would strongly consider, because the alternatives, like raising the retirement age or cutting benefits or raising the payroll tax on everybody, including people who make less than $97,000 a year...

GIBSON: But there's a heck of a lot of...

OBAMA: ... those are not good policy options.

GIBSON: There's a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200,000 and $250,000. If you raise the payroll taxes...

OBAMA: And that's...

GIBSON: ... that's going to raise taxes on them.

OBAMA: And that's why I've said, Charlie, that I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

But the point is we're going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can't get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it's going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system.

And I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we're going to do that and not just say that we're going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

CLINTON: Well, in fact, I am totally committed to making sure Social Security is solvent. If we had stayed on the path we were on at the end of my husband's administration, we sure would be in a lot better position, because we had a plan to extend the life of the Social Security Trust Fund and, again, President Bush decided that that wasn't a priority, that the war in Iraq and tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans were his priorities, neither of which he's ever paid for.

I think it's the first time we've ever been taken to war and had a president who wouldn't pay for it.

But when it comes to Social Security, fiscal responsibility is the first and most important step. You've got to begin to rein in the budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social Security Trust Fund.

And, with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security was 1983. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O'Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you've got to get Republicans and Democrats together. That's what I will do.

And I will say, number one, don't cut benefits on current beneficiaries. They're already having a hard enough time. And, number two, do not impose additional tax burdens on middle-class families.

There are lots of ways we can fix Social Security that don't impose those burdens, and I will do that.

OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, Charlie, and also raised the payroll tax. And so Senator Clinton -- she can't have it both ways. You can't come at me for proposing a solution that will save Social Security without burdening middle-income Americans and then suggest that somehow she's got a magic solution.

CLINTON: But there are more progressive ways of doing it than, you know, lifting the cap. And I think we'll work it out. I have every confidence we're going to work it out. I know that we can make this happen.

GIBSON: On that point, we're going to take a break, commercial break. The Democratic debate from here in Philadelphia, before the Pennsylvania primary, will continue. Stay with us. We'll be back.


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