Former Mayor of Cranston Running For President? Yes — And He’s Got Big Ideas On Social Security and Taxes for the GOP

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Former Cranston mayor Steve Laffey sees a problem with the Republican Party.

The 60-year-old Republican, who served as the mayor of Cranston, Rhode Island from 2003 to 2007, thinks his party is abandoning fiscal responsibility.

Laffey, who now lives on a ranch in Colorado, announced a presidential bid last week, focusing on reforming Social Security, changing the tax code, and ending the country’s dependency on China for goods.

Laffey told NewBostonPost in a telephone interview that he likes some things about former President Donald Trump, who is also seeking the party’s nomination. However, Laffey said that Trump’s failure to reduce government spending means the party should look elsewhere for a nominee.

“When Donald Trump is right, I say ‘Great,’ ” Laffey said. “Like the judges are great. Thank you for that. He kept his promise with the Supreme Court. But $8 trillion in debt added in four years? Where are the Republicans? Am I the only one left who says this is crazy?”

Laffey said that because of the government spending that occurred when Trump was president, President Joe Biden has been able to tout deficit reduction as a political achievement — despite the country’s projected $1.2 trillion deficit in its fiscal year 2023 budget. In fiscal year 2021, the United States had a $2.8 trillion deficit amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Laffey thinks one way the federal government can fix this problem is by making changes to Social Security to ensure the program can pay out its obligations. 

“The intergenerational stealing from our children with what we’re doing with Social Security,” he said. “If you’re under 40 and you meet with a financial planner, they’re not going to factor any Social Security into your retirement plan.”

Laffey supports paying the people already receiving Social Security, but a new plan for people under 60 years old.

He wants a retirement system people pay 10 percent of their income into; the money would be invested into global stocks, bonds, and other entities. Under his proposal, people would continue paying federal payroll taxes so the country can pay its Social Security obligations. 

“You could be 43, you could be 57 or whatever,” he said. “You could get less under this plan, but that’s just the truthful thing to say. But the 20-year-old will get a lot more — and a lot more than nothing is better. And it’s a lot better than it going bankrupt.”

Over the next 75 years, Social Security is projected to have $53.7 trillion in unfunded liabilities, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Laffey said he wants to speak to college students at schools like the University of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College, and Saint Anselm College to explain why he thinks the country needs to move away from the current Social Security model. 

He also said the GOP should have a candidate in the race willing to discuss entitlement reform — and thinks the candidates will try to avoid the topic.

“All of them,” he said when asked if he thinks other GOP presidential candidates will avoid discussing Social Security. “The Republican mantra is ‘We’re not going to touch Social Security.’ “

“I will change the nature of the debate, and they will have to answer these questions,” he later added. “That will help the Republican Party and help the young people. I may not win, but I’m going to change the nature of the debate.”

On trade, Laffey said that he does not want to see the United States enriching a geopolitical rival in China. 

“We all love free trade — and I love the Club for Growth — but we shouldn’t be trading with China,” he said.

“A country is trying to build up their military with our cash, and we’re just saying O.K.,” he added.

Additionally, Laffey noted that he would like to see the United States sign a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom left the European Union on January 31, 2020, and now has more authority to dictate its trade policy. The United States does not have a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom or the European Union. 

On taxes, Laffey supports a plan popularized by the late Herman Cain during his 2012 Republican primary presidential bid:  the 9-9-9 plan. It would reduce the personal and corporate income taxes to a flat 9 percent rate while also creating a 9 percent federal sales tax. In turn, it would abolish other taxes, like capital gains and estate taxes.

“Look at how popular it was,” Laffey said, referring to the plan when Cain ran for president. “Go talk to some farmers in Greeley, Colorado. They loved the plan. They weren’t concerned about if they’d pay a little less or a little more. They want something that’s simple and efficient, and they don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

On abortion, Laffey said he is pro-life and that every abortion is a tragedy. He said he agrees with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Services case last year. 

However, Laffey thinks abortion is a state issue and that the federal government should stay away from the topic. 

“Nothing,” he said when asked what the federal government should do about abortion. “Just stop it. As I’ve said publicly, it’s not in the Constitution. It would be better to return it to the states. It’s down to 3 percent who think it’s a top issue in the latest Gallup poll. Government is the biggest issue.”

“Everybody go and fix Social Security,” he later added. “It’s a less divisive issue. In certain races in certain places, it will be a big issue. But nationally, it’s no longer a big issue because the Supreme Court rightly put it back to the states.”

“Let’s go to the issues that the Republican Party has failed the country on and fix them,” he concluded. 

Laffey said that starting on February 25, 2023, he plans to campaign heavily in New Hampshire to build support for his campaign. 

“I’m sure Nikki Haley or somebody will be there for three days,” he said. “I’ll be there for three months.”

So far, Trump, Laffey, and former Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton are the only Republicans running for president. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is expected to announce a run for president next week.

More information on Laffey’s campaign is available at


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