The LuLac Edition #3317, October 8th, 2016
Trump says he’d do this by generating more Social Security payroll taxes by bringing back jobs and by getting rid of “deficits, waste, fraud and abuse.” Steve Bell, a budget expert at the Bipartisan Policy Center, told The Wall Street Journal, however, “Any notion of waste, fraud and abuse during our fiscal needs remains…silliness. Trump’s comments are just another kick in the stomach to all of us who have worked for more than 30 years for solvency for Social Security.”
But Trump left the window open to future reforms in his comments to AARP, saying: “As our demography changes, a prudent administration would begin to examine what changes might be necessary for future generations.”
Similarly, Trump policy adviser Sam Clovis recently said at the 2016 Fiscal Summit of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation: “After the administration has been in place, then we will start to look at all of the programs, including entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.” At that point, Clovis added, “We’ll start taking a hard look at those to start seeing what we can do in a bipartisan way,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
And although Trump hasn’t aligned himself with the Republican platform, that document says: “We reject the old maxim that Social Security is the ‘Third Rail’ of American politics, deadly for anyone who would change it…Of the many reforms being proposed, all options should be considered to preserve Social Security.”
Hillary Clinton: She opposes most proposals to shore up the system, other than raising payroll taxes on the wealthiest (see below). In fact, she wants to expand Social Security benefits for some people (detailed below).
The Democratic platform echoes her views: “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.”
Hillary Clinton: She opposes raising the retirement age, too, calling that “an unfair idea that will particularly hurt the seniors who have worked the hardest throughout their lives.”
The Republican platform, however, says only that “current retirees and those close to retirement can be assured of their benefits.” The progressive advocacy group Social Security Works annotated the Republican platform saying: “So you plan to cut them for everyone else???”
Hillary Clinton: She’s against any cut in Social Security benefits. But “rather than expand benefits for everyone, I do want to take care of low-income seniors who worked at low-wage jobs. I want to start by helping those people who are most at risk,” Clinton has said.
And she wants to increase Social Security benefits for widows. Clinton told AARP that the poverty rate for widowed women 65 or older is nearly 90 percent higher than for other seniors. One reason, she noted: When a spouse dies, “families can face a steep benefit cut.” For a two-earner couple, the cuts can be as much as 50 percent, Clinton said.
“We have to change that by reducing how much Social Security benefits drop when a spouse dies, so that the loss of a spouse doesn’t mean financial hardship or falling into poverty,” Clinton noted.
Hillary Clinton: She wants to boost Social Security benefits for people who take time off from work for family caregiving duties. Her rationale: Under the current system, caregivers can see their Social Security benefits reduced at retirement, since benefits are based on a person’s top 35 years of earnings. “Americans should receive credit toward their Social Security benefits when they are out of the paid workforce because they are acting as caregivers,” Clinton told AARP.
Social Security Annual Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLAs)
Donald Trump: He would not change the way COLAs are calculated. Many other Republicans want to make these annual increases less generous than under the current formula.
Hillary Clinton: She opposes reducing annual cost-of-living adjustments. The Democratic platform actually prefers increasing them compared to the way COLAs are calculated today, believing that retirees’ high health care out-of-pocket costs aren’t adequately reflected. (Clinton has not said this publicly, to the best of Next Avenue’s knowledge.) The platform says the party is “committed to exploring [COLA] alternatives that could better and more equitably serve seniors.”
Hillary Clinton: She would increase Social Security payroll taxes on people earning more than $250,000. (That means workers wouldn’t owe FICA taxes on earnings between $118,500 and $250,000.) And, Clinton told AARP, she favors taxing some income of the highest-income Americans that is not currently taxed.
However, the Republican platform hints at it, saying the party believes “in the power of markets to create wealth and to help secure the future of our Social Security system.” Clovis favored privatization when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2014.
Hillary Clinton: She’s against privatization. Clinton told AARP that she would “fight any attempts to gamble seniors’ retirement security on the stock market through privatization.”