Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is trying to convince President Joe Biden to embrace a plan that would fully fund Social Security for more than seven decades, as well as raise benefits by $2,400 a year.
According to The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein Thursday, Sanders met with Biden late last month to discuss his proposal to raise taxes on investment income and to apply payroll taxes to employment income above $250,000, rather than limiting the tax to the first $160,000 in employment earnings, as under current law. Doing so would stabilize the program’s finances for 75 years, according to the Social Security actuary. Sanders also wants to increase benefits by $200 a month for everyone receiving Social Security.
“It is not enough to point out the reactionary, anti-worker vision of the Republican Party,” Sanders told the Post. “We have to present a positive, pro-worker alternative. The truth is that Social Security does have a solvency problem, and we have got to address that.”
Internal debate: The White House has gained considerable political advantage in recent weeks by highlighting Republican proposals that would cut Social Security and Medicare, but so far has remained quiet about the administration’s own plans. Sanders wants Democrats to talk about how they would bolster the programs, which face funding shortfalls in the coming years that could result in painful benefit reductions if no steps are taken to avoid them.
Sanders said that Biden listened to his pitch but remained noncommittal. For one thing, the Sanders plan, which is backed by nine Democrats in the Senate, would violate Biden’s pledge to not raise taxes on anyone earning less than $400,000 a year. In addition, some Democrats think there is little advantage for Biden in offering his own proposal right now, since the current effort to portray Republicans as threats to the popular social programs has been so effective politically.
“There’s a faction inside the White House that feels some need to offer a plan, though I personally feel that’s misplaced,” a Democratic pollster told the Post. “Stick to our basic message: Hands off our seniors. That’s working.”
The bottom line: Biden has been making political hay by attacking Republicans on Social Security and Medicare, but at some point, Democrats will need to get behind their own proposal to fix those programs’ finances. For now, though, the political forces in play suggest there will be more heat than light on the issue for some time to come.