PALO ALTO, Calif. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Wednesday applauded President Barack Obama’s support for expanding Social Security by asking the “wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”
Sanders urged Hillary Clinton to back legislation endorsed by leading Democrats and seniors’ advocates to strengthen the retirement program.
“I applaud President Obama for making it clear that it is time to expand Social Security benefits,” Sanders said. “Millions of seniors, disabled veterans and people with disabilities are falling further and further behind on $10,000 or $11,000 a year Social Security,” he added.
Legislation Sanders introduced in the U.S. Senate would expand Social Security benefits and extend the life of the program for 58 years. In a speech in Indiana, Obama suggested that the retirement system should be strengthened by making the wealthy pay more, a position the president first advocated during his 2008 White House campaign. Sanders’ bill would lift the cap on taxable Social Security income and asking the very wealthy to pay more.
“Our legislation is supported by millions of senior citizens organizations,” Sanders said, “and I hope Secretary Clinton will come on board.”
Sanders’ proposal calls for making the wealthiest Americans who make more than $250,000 a year pay the same share of their income into the retirement system as everyone else. Current law now caps the amount of income subject to payroll taxes at $118,500.
Under Sanders’ plan, a senior making less than $16,000 a year would see income go up by more than $1,300 a year.
The measure also would increase cost-of-living adjustments. This year, for only the third time in four decades, seniors on Social Security did not receive a cost-of-living increase. Sanders’ legislation would increase COLAs by more accurately measuring the spending patterns of seniors. Under current law, the consumer price index used to calculate annual benefit adjustments does not accurately reflect how inflation in health care costs and prescription drug prices impact seniors.
The proposal to lift the cap would raise taxes only on the wealthiest 1.5 percent of Americans.
According to the most recent estimates from the Social Security Administration, Sanders’ plan would extend the solvency of Social Security until the year 2074.
In California, where Sanders was campaigning ahead of next Tuesday’s presidential primary, more than 5.5 million seniors and disabled people receive Social Security benefits. The average benefit is less than $14,500 a year. Social Security lifted nearly 2 million Californians out of poverty in 2013. Without Social Security, more than 37 percent of California’s seniors would be living in poverty. With Social Security, the senior poverty rate in California is less than 10 percent.