This Wednesday, President Barack Obama said that the U.S. should increase Social Security retirement benefits.
The president’s support of retirement benefits increasing is a huge win for the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. Obama addressed this during a speech in Elkhart, Indiana.
‘It’s time we finally made Social Security more generous and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.’
And we can start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more. They can afford it. I can afford it.’
This announcement is a major change from the president’s previous public position on Social Security.
One of the cuts Obama came close to passing would have involved changes to the actual formula that is used to calculate the annual cost of living adjustments that help benefits keep pace with inflation. During fiscal cliff talks at the end of 2012 the White House repeatedly offered it to congressional Republican leaders despite objections made by then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The suggestion President Obama made Wednesday that the wealthy should pay for increased Social Security benefits is in line with recent proposals by other liberal Democrats in Congress. This corresponds with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as well as fellow candidate Hillary Clinton. Clinton has expressed favoring targeted increases while Sanders supports expansion of benefits across the board.
Sanders issued a statement while campaigning in California praising Obama’s announcement and urging Hillary to support his Senate legislation that would broaden benefits.
‘I applaud President Obama for making it clear that it is time to expand Social Security benefits.’
Clinton clarified in February that she too supports increases and would not want to impose cuts elsewhere in the program in response to pressure from Sanders and progressive groups.
It’s unclear weather Obama’s Wednesday speech means he would rule out all cuts. The president did not address specific changes to the program, but his comments about the wealthy could indicate he supports lifting the cap on earnings taxable for Social Security.
Only the first $118,500 of payroll income is taxed for Social Security benefits, currently. The cap rises annually to keep pace with average wage growth, but proposals by liberal Democrats are focused on raising the cap because a percentage of earnings subject to the tax has declined over the past several decades.
The executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, Richard Fiesta, of course, praised president Obama’s proposal Wednesday.
‘The Alliance advocated the expansion of Social Security benefits for years and we are pleased that the President agrees with us. It’s time for Congress to pass one of the many bills that has already been introduced to make a more secure retirement for current and future retirees.’