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SC retirees agree with Perry on Social Security as Ponzi scheme

South Carolina retirees and Social Security recipients who support the Tea Party seem to agree with Texas Gov. Rick Perry that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme.

A number of participants at a Tea Party Rally today in Bluffton, South Carolina – a town near Hilton Head – moved to the Palmetto State from the northeast to escape the cold winters.

And while most of them might be several years into their Social Security checks, many said they agreed with Perry’s assertion at the NBC/Politico debate on Wednesday that the program is a “Ponzi scheme to tell our kids that are 25 or 30 years old today, you’re paying into a program that’s going to be there.”  

“I think he’s probably right,” said Larry Vazzana, a Maryland native who retired in Bluffton. Vazzana, who said he thinks former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the more electable candidate, said he fears Perry’s strong language may handicap the Texas governor but that his assertion is accurate.

“That’s an example of what I’m saying – he’s a bit outspoken and he shoots from the hip,” Vazzana added. “But I think if you look at it, he’s probably right. It’s a Ponzi scheme.”

Northern migrants like Vazzana make up a growing portion of South Carolina’s electorate. Beaufort County, home to Bluffton and Hilton Head, had one of the state’s biggest population surges, growing 34 percent according to the 2010 census. The area is also rich in primary voters, with 24.75 percent voter turnout in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, above the state’s 19.52 percent average.

This afternoon in Bluffton’s old town square, Vazzana was in good company. Nancy Roe, a Social Security recipient who moved to Bluffton from Atlanta in 1972, said that she agreed with Perry, although she thought his answer on Social Security at Wednesday’s debate was incomplete. 

“I was sorry the other night that he didn’t explain that he would have wanted to fix Social Security,” she said. “I’m on it too.”

“But it is a Ponzi scheme!” Referring to the CNN/Tea Party debate next week, she said, “I hope Rick Perry can explain himself better in Tampa. I’m glad he didn’t backtrack. Yes, it is a Ponzi scheme. 

Ann Ubelis, a (non-retired) talk radio host and member of the Beaufort Tea Party who is originally from New York, said that although she was wary of his record on immigration, she thought Perry’s comments on the entitlement program were “spot on.” And of his other controversial comments (such as saying Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke would be treated “pretty ugly” in Texas), Ubelis said his comments are in line with those coming from Democrats.  

“I don’t see anything inflammatory about it. We’ve had a lot worse,” Ubelis said, noting Rep. Maxine Waters’ comment two weeks ago that “the Tea Party can go straight to hell” as an example of heated rhetoric from the Tea Party’s ideological opposites.

“We’ve been called terrorists, racists, barbarians at the border. We’re not doing nasty talk but we’re stating facts and principles and Social Security is a Ponzi scheme,” Ubelis said.

After today’s event in Bluffton, the Tea Party Express bus headed to Florida, where it will stop in Jacksonville and Deltona before arriving in Tampa for the debate on Sept. 12th.