Nikki Haley Floats Raising Retirement Age to Curb Rising US Debt

(Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley backed an increase in the retirement age that would be tied to life expectancy as a way to counter rising US government debt, a day after her standout performance in the first GOP debate.

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“We change retirement age to reflect life expectancy instead of cost of living increases. We do it based on inflation. We limit the benefits on the wealthy, and we expand Medicare Advantage plans,” the former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina governor said Thursday in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

The age for full retirement benefits is currently 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Haley didn’t specify what age she would prefer.

Her comments follow a stronger-than-expected performance in Wednesday night’s debate, in which Haley landed a number of pointed jabs at her rivals which could prompt donors and voters to take another look at her. Haley has struggled to gain traction and lure donors. She’s polling in fifth place — at just 3.2% — in the Real Clear Political polling average.

“We’re getting support, it hasn’t stopped since the debate was over last night,” Haley said in the interview.

Haley has taken an unusual position of blaming her own party for its role in driving federal debt and again Thursday criticized her rivals for the nomination, including former President Donald Trump, saying they have failed to level with the American people.

“You’ve got multiple candidates on that stage that said they wouldn’t touch entitlements,” she said. “Any candidate that says they’re not going to touch entitlements means that they’re basically going to go into office and then leave America bankrupt.”

Haley once more sought to showcase her foreign policy credentials, saying Trump “used to have it right” on Russia when she served in his administration but that he’s “backtracked now and is going into where he’s weak in the knees.”

The former UN ambassador stressed the need to continue to support Ukraine, and said NATO should be expanded, noting that Russia had never invaded a country that was a member of the alliance.

“We need more friends not less,” she said.

It was a familiar theme for Haley. In one of the most heated exchanges of the debate, Haley hammered businessman Vivek Ramaswamy for his stance toward Russia and its war in Ukraine as well as on China and other global issues.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” she said, to thunderous applause. “The problem is that Vivek doesn’t understand, he wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, he wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel, you don’t do that to friends.”

Haley, 51, has previously said she would consider ending normal trade relations with China over the fentanyl crisis; bar the US from buying Chinese-made drones; ban TikTok and the payment app WeChat; halt exports of technology to China; and restrict China from buying US land. Haley has also argued for strengthening the US relationship with Taiwan.

She has positioned herself as representing a fresh generation of conservative leadership, calling for mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over the age of 75, a group that includes both Trump, 77, and President Joe Biden, 80.

“I think I’m going to be the winner of the primary, and I think that’s why we need a new generational conservative leader,” she said Thursday. “We’ve got to leave the past and the negativity behind us, and we’ve got to start focusing on the real problems at hand and start getting things done.”

--With assistance from Stephanie Lai and Justin Sink.

(Adds details about current retirement age, Haley’s proposal in paragraph 3)

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