Social Security funds are set to dry up by the year 2034. In an election cycle with a focus on foreign affairs, national security, and the economy and jobs, Social Security reform has largely remained off the radar. As a millennial paying into this program fully knowing I will never receive its benefits if the system continues its course, I decided to dig a little deeper into the candidates’ positions on this topic.
According to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, Social Security “has been America at its best” for 80 years. Mrs. Clinton plans to not only expand Social Security, but also fight any effort to privatize it. She proposes tax increases for highest-income Americans – exceeding the current Social Security cap – and taxing areas of their income that are not currently accessed by the system. In order to fight the poverty rate of widowed women over the age of 65, Mrs. Clinton would like to reduce the benefit cuts that occur when a spouse dies.
Ted Cruz is in support of what he considers to be “commonsense reforms.” Senator Cruz believes this to mean implementing a gradual increase in the retirement age and allowing younger workers to keep a portion of their tax payments in a personal savings account as a move towards privatization of the program. He proposes an annual tax-deferral of up to $25,000 in Universal Savings Accounts. In a Cruz administration, benefit increases would never exceed the rate of inflation. He has received a lifetime rating of 13% by the Alliance of Retired Americans.
Bernie Sanders touts Social Security as “the most successful government program in our nation’s history.” Senator Sanders proposes strengthening the existing system and expanding benefits. He seeks to increase benefits by $65 a month and secure Social Security for the next 50 years through his legislation that would lift the cap on high incomes – currently set at those earning over $250,000 annually –to provide more funding for the program, though this purported fix only briefly extends the solvency of the trust fund. The Alliance of Retired Americans has given Mr. Sanders a 100% lifetime rating.
Donald Trump has previously acknowledged that if Social Security is here to stay, we must “reform it, make it more efficient, and ensure the program is solvent.” He has yet to lay out his exact plans on protecting this social welfare program, but has said it is unfair to those who have paid into it to make cuts to their benefits. Trump looks to strengthen the United States’ economy as the means to this end. His approach appears to be increasing jobs to increase tax revenue in order to cover costs of Social Security.
These various perspectives on fixing a failing system matter. Young voters must not overlook the urgent need for Social Security reform and learn which candidates are putting our future prosperity and opportunity at risk by failing to offer substantive ideas that promote economic growth while addressing severe shortcomings of the program.