Former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael BloombergDemocrats' combative approach to politics is doing more harm than good Battling over Biden's agenda: A tale of two Democratic parties Budget impasses mark a critical turning point in Biden's presidency MORE referred to Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme” as mayor and called for cuts to the program as well as to Medicare and Medicaid.
"I don't know if Bernie Madoff got his idea from there, but if there's ever a Ponzi scheme, people say Madoff was the biggest? Wrong. Social Security is, far and away," Bloomberg said in 2009 on the radio program “Live from City Hall” in audio reported by CNN’s KFile.
"We are giving monies out with the next guy's money coming in and at the end of — when the music stops — it's just not gonna be enough chairs for everybody," Bloomberg added.
The remarks could cause problems for the Democratic presidential candidate in a party that has largely abandoned any talk of reforming Social Security through raising the age to receive benefits or making other changes.
Ponzi schemes, named for con artist Charles Ponzi, are fraudulent schemes that involve paying earlier investors with more recent investors’ money and representing it as a return on the investment.
Bloomberg made similar comments between 2010 and 2013, when bipartisan proposals to reduce or restructure social safety net programs were frequently floated as a method of reducing the deficit.
The then-mayor repeatedly called for the passage of the Simpson-Bowles plan, named for former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy.) and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, who made several suggestions on federal spending as co-chairmen of a deficit reduction commission established by former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Public officials are under physical and digital siege We must protect and support our health care safety net MORE in 2010.
While the Simpson-Bowles plan had bipartisan support, it was also condemned on the left for proposed changes to Social Security, including raising the retirement age and increasing the payroll tax cap, and on the right for proposed tax increases.
Since announcing his run for the White House, however, Bloomberg has attacked President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE for suggesting in January that "at some point" his administration would consider "entitlement cuts" in a second term.
Bloomberg's campaign website reads, "President Trump has suggested that he is open to cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. As president, Mike will strengthen entitlement programs and supplement the private retirement savings system to ensure that no American senior has to live in the shadow of financial peril."
"Congress can do their part," Bloomberg said in November 2011. "They should just pass this Simpson-Bowles plan of cuts, which was done with an enormous amount of research by a Republican and a Democrat who have great credibility and had wonderful staff. And yes, you probably could make both things better, but these are things where Congress and the president, yes or no, up or down the whole thing or nothing."
Social Security has emerged as a contentious issue already in the Democratic primaries, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Progressives see budget deal getting close after Biden meeting MORE (I-Vt.) seizing on previous comments by former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenWhite House: Window for finalizing sweeping budget package 'closing' Jayapal says tuition-free community college 'probably won't' be in spending plan Jan. 6 panel votes to hold Bannon in contempt MORE that Sanders said indicated openness to cuts to the program.
The Hill has reached out to the Bloomberg campaign for comment.