Where the Candidates Stand on Social Security
By Jessie Gibbons, Senior Policy Analyst
Just days remain before voters across the country will elect 435 lawmakers to the U.S. House, 34 to the U.S. Senate, and one new president to the White House. By now, most registered voters have a good idea who they will vote for on November 8th. But how much do you really know about the party positions? Before heading to the polls on election day, TSCL recommends taking one last look at the platforms that were adopted by the Democrats and the Republicans earlier this year. Here are the Social Security reform positions laid out by the two major political parties at their conventions back in July.
The Democratic Platform Committee approved a plan that would expand the Social Security program “so that every American can retire with dignity and respect.” Their document states, “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.”
In their 2016 platform, Democrats committed to adopting a more fair and accurate Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), saying, “The Democratic Party recognizes that the way Social Security COLAs are calculated may not always reflect the spending patterns of seniors, particularly the disproportionate amount they spend on healthcare expenses.” To cover the cost of providing a more accurate COLA and to increase the solvency of the trust funds, Democrats voted to support policies that would apply the payroll tax cap to income above $250,000 so that wealthier individuals pay the same Social Security tax rate as everyone else.
Their platform’s Social Security plan closes by saying, “Our plan contrasts starkly with Donald Trump. He has referred to Social Security as a ‘Ponzi scheme’ and has called for privatizing it as well as increasing the retirement age.”
At their convention in July, delegates of the Republican Party approved a platform focused on reducing the national debt. Their document begins by stating: “We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the ‘Third Rail’ of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it. The Democratic Party still treats it that way, even though everyone knows that its current course will lead to a financial and social disaster.” The focal point of their plan is cutting government waste, encouraging economic growth, and balancing the budget – even if that means making significant changes to programs like Social Security.
The Republican platform assures current beneficiaries and those nearing retirement that their benefits will remain untouched, and that all changes to the program will aim to preserve the solvency of the Social Security trust funds. It explicitly states that all plans to increase tax revenues – like the increase in the payroll tax cap that the Democrats proposed – will not be supported. It states, “As Republicans, we oppose tax increases and believe in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system.”
Finally, the platform closes by saying, “Saving Social Security is more than a challenge. It is our moral obligation to those who trusted in the government’s word.”
While neither platform outlines a comprehensive path forward for Social Security, they do offer two dramatically different stances on the program’s future. The Democrats adopted a platform that prioritizes an expansion of Social Security, while the Republicans committed to reforming the program in a way that improves the program’s financial outlook without using revenue increases to do so.
TSCL believes that both positions would have a significant impact on the future of Social Security, and we urge Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill to work together in the months ahead to strengthen and modernize the program responsibly. Throughout the 115th Congress, our legislative team will continue to advocate with a nonpartisan voice for policies that would secure the solvency of the Social Security trust funds, make the program more fair and equitable, and avoid harsh benefit cuts for current and future retirees.
For updates on our progress, visit our home page. And be sure to cast your vote on November 8th for the candidates you trust the most to reform the program responsibly in the 115th Congress.