Eric Hovde seeks to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, but he’ll have to defend past comments on Social Security and Medicare



By Pat Kreitlow

February 15, 2024

Baldwin has pushed to strengthen the program, while a potential Republican opponent has talked openly of delaying Americans’ retirement or “absolutely” scaling back benefits.

America recently marked the 84th anniversary of a single check placed in a Vermont mailbox—signaling the country’s dedication to having its workers enjoy a retirement free from destitution. But long after that first Social Security check was delivered to retired legal secretary Ida May Fuller, there remains a faction of politicians eager to limit or kill the nation’s landmark social insurance program. It’s an issue sure to come up as Sen. Tammy Baldwin seeks re-election and a stronger program, while a likely opponent contends Americans should delay retirement. 

Baldwin will likely draw a distinction between her support of Social Security and the views of potential Republican challenger, businessman Eric Hovde, who said Thursday he’s likely to formally announce his candidacy next week. Hovde, who owns a bank in California as well as properties in Wisconsin, ran for US Senate in 2012 but lost to former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

Hovde has frequently referred to programs like Social Security and Medicare as “entitlements” rather than earned benefits that Americans paid into throughout their working lives—and has said benefits “absolutely” need to be trimmed.

Last time Hovde ran for Senate, he talked repeatedly about the need to put Social Security benefits further out of reach from many Americans by moving the retirement age. 

“If you’re under 50, you’re gonna add two years to retirement age,” Hovde told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board at the time. “If you’re under 40, you’re gonna add two more years, and if you’re under 30, you’re probably gonna have to add another year.” The Social Security retirement age today for many Americans is 67.

Hovde based his view on projected life expectancies, saying that when Social Security was first instituted, the average life expectancy was 62 and is 79 today

But Ms. Fuller lived to age 100 in 1975, without the worry that she would have to work past age 65, much less 72 as sought by Hovde for current workers in their 20s. 

Baldwin, meanwhile, frequently mentions her support for strengthening Social Security, such as raising the income cap on the Social Security payroll tax—currently $168,600. Executives, athletes, and celebrities en route to salaries in the tens of millions of dollars are done paying into Social Security within the first few days of the year while other workers pay all year long.

“California bank owner Eric Hovde would threaten the hard-earned benefits Wisconsinites have worked all their lives for,” said Arik Wolk, Rapid Response Director of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “His agenda of ‘absolutely’ cutting benefits for Wisconsin seniors shows he’ll only look out for himself and his wealthy allies. Meanwhile, Tammy Baldwin has spent her career fighting to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare for Wisconsinites.”


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.


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