Funding Social Security is a highly polarizing issue and each presidential candidate has their own ideas on the program and it’s financial structure.
Previously, we had discussed the views of the presidential candidates on Social Security. A few months have passed since then and the presidential race has narrowed to five candidates, each with a unique perspective on Social Security.
In general, the Republican candidates believe that the Social Security system is overburdened, wasteful, and unsustainable. Their proposals center on reducing fraud, cutting benefits, and privatization. Privatization means putting Social Security funds in individual accounts rather than pooling tax revenue. Democrats see the Social Security program as essential. They would rather expand benefits than cut them. They believe the current system can continue with only minor changes.
In Donald Trump’s book, The America We Deserve, published in 2000, his position is equivocal. He states both “Privatization would be good for all of us” and “I would never support what has to be the craziest ideas in the history of U.S. politics: allowing the government to invest Social Security retirement funds in the stock market.”
More recently, on the campaign trail, Trump has suggested the best way to make Social Security solvent is to reduce fraud and improve the economy generally by cutting foreign aid. He states, “I want to make our country rich again so we can afford it.”
Tea party favorite Ted Cruz believes Social Security should stay largely the same for today’s seniors. He thinks it is important that “we honor the promises made to our seniors”. He believes now is the perfect time for change as we can continue to pay benefits to older Americans while giving younger workers time to plan for an older retirement age (from 67 to 70). Secondly, his thinks the annual cost-of-living increase should be reduced to bring it more in line with inflation. He has supported the idea of privatization, stating Social Security should “allow workers to keep a portion of their tax payments in an account”.
Kasich has an uncompromising stance on Social Security reform. He has said “18-year-olds believe they stand a better chance of seeing a UFO in their lifetime than a Social Security check.” He also believes in privatization as a supplement to the current system. Under his plan, 2% of payroll tax would be invested in the private sector. In 1999, as House Budget Committee Chairman, he proposed cuts and partial privatization.
Hillary has a strong record of opposing privatization. Of all the candidates, she suggests the least amount of reform to the current system, and believes strongly in defending the status quo. She also opposes raising the retirement age, cutting benefits, or reducing cost-of-living adjustments. Clinton puts forward the idea of expanding benefits to caregivers. Caregivers, a largely female demographic, are those who left the workforce to take care of their children, elderly parents, or disabled relatives. Hillary also recommends increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans to keep Social Security funded.
Bernie Sanders opens his Social Security proposal with “Social Security is the most successful government program in the history of this great country”. His proposal greatly expands benefits. He would like to increase the benefit amount by roughly $65 per month. His plan also suggests tying cost-of-living adjustments to a price index specifically tailored to how the elderly spend.
Sanders proposes maintaining the solvency of the Social Security fund by imposing Social Security tax on income above $250,000 (currently only income under $118,500 is subject to Social Security tax). Sanders opposes privatization primarily because he believes government will manage the funds more safely than corporations and Wall Street diovan medicine.
While there is significant disagreement on how to go about doing it, all candidates agree that it is important that America provide a safety net for elderly and disabled individuals. Republicans are focused on making sure the system will continue to function for future generations and will do this by reducing benefits. Democrats are more focused on expanding benefits and believe the program can be preserved by increasing taxes on the wealthy.