Tea party GOP candidates Buck and Maes diverge on social security

Salon columnist Joe Conason notes a split between recent Colorado tea party-backed GOP nominees Ken Buck and Dan Maes, the former running for Senate and the latter for governor. Conason is referring to the candidates’ views of social security, the “government’s most successful program” and one despised by conservative ideologues but beloved by the elderly, including many tea party faithful.

The difference in the way the two men have so far spoken about social security moves outside tired ideological boundaries.

Buck has made it clear he thinks government isn’t up to the task of managing people’s money or retirement plans and that, as a philosophical matter, none of that should really be a part of the government’s job description. Maes says the social security and veterans benefits earned by his father made it possible for young Maes to go to college and enter the white-collar work force.

This isn’t a matter of threadbare right and left politics. This is a matter of class politics. As Conason points out, Buck is an ivy-league educated man who has been a well-paid government employee for most of his career, whereas Maes is a member of the “aggrieved and hurting American middle class,” a point illustrated well by the reporting of Colorado Independent contributor Scot Kersgaard, who has dug into Maes’s past as a businessman.

Of course Maes and Buck will not be debating each other anytime soon. Question is, will wealthy Sen. Michael Bennet be able to make as strong a case as Maes might make that the government’s role in providing a safety net and working to expand the middle class is a much better ethical and economic bet than deficit-expanding disproved trickle-down tax cuts for millionaires?

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