NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Rick Perry called Social Security a "Ponzi scheme" and "monstrous lie" during Wednesday's GOP presidential candidates debate in California.

Candidate Mitt Romney defended the program, which has provided retirement benefits for retired Americans since the New Deal era in the 1930s. In the past decade, there has been much talk that the fund wouldn't be able to meet all the future demands for payments with the baby boom generation retiring.

"Our nominee has to be someone who isn't committed to abolishing Social Security but is committed to saving Social Security," Romney said. "I will make sure that we keep the program and we make it financially secure."

The national debate over the solvency of the program continued Thursday morning when New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and CNBC reporter Rick Santelli clashed on the air, with the words "idiot" and "idiotic" flying around.

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