The Sanders Effect: Clinton Moves to the Left on Social Security Taxes
Policy + Politics

The Sanders Effect: Clinton Moves to the Left on Social Security Taxes

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

As part of her steady shift to the left, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton signaled in New Hampshire yesterday that she would be open to a proposal to raise the cap on Social Security taxation of wealthy Americans -- an approach already strongly favored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, her main challenger for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Sanders and other members of the progressive wing of the Democratic party have been agitating for a change in the law to force high-income Americans to pay considerably more in to the Social Security trust fund, in order to boost benefits for lower-income retirees and to assure the long-term solvency of the retirement fund that has long been on shaky financial ground.

Related: Battle Lines Form in the Fight Over Social Security Payment Reductions

Currently, upper income Americans aren’t obliged to pay Social Security payroll taxes in excess of a certain amount, which this year was set at $118,500. While Clinton opposed the idea of lifting the income cap during her unsuccessful 2008 campaign for president, she indicated during an appearance in Claremont, N.H., Wednesday that she might be convinced to support it this time, according to The Washington Post.

In response to a question from the audience at a community college about the fact that wealthier Americans pay  proportionately less of their income into the Social Security fund than lower-income people, Clinton replied: “I can understand why you'd think that was unfair” before she suggested that an increase in the limit might be in order.

Clinton then went on to outline an approach that was similar to Sanders’ idea, which entailed raising taxes on the wealthiest wage earners while leaving the current cap for upper middle-income American.  "We do have to look at the cap, and we have to figure out whether we raise it or whether we raise it a little and then jump over and raise it more higher up," Clinton told the audience, according to the Post.

Related: Democrats Call for Major Change in Social Security

With Sanders drawing large audiences and steadily rising in the polls, Clinton has stepped up efforts to woo more liberal Democratic voters who have been critical of her more moderate views in the past. Earlier this week, Clinton unveiled a plan to make it easier to attend public colleges and universities without taking on debt. However, she stopped short of endorsing Sanders’ plan to provide free tuition to students attending public colleges.