Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign is pointing to President Barack Obama’s remarks this week about increasing the amount of money seniors get through Social Security as evidence of the impact the avowed democratic socialist is having on policy debates.
The Sanders campaign quickly jumped on the President’s remarks, sending out a news report about the statement to the reporters who cover the campaign.
“I applaud President Obama for making it clear that it is time to expand Social Security benefits,” Sanders said in a statement. “Millions of seniors, disabled veterans and people with disabilities are falling further and further behind on $10,000 or $11,000 a year Social Security,” he added.
Sanders has long been advocating for an increase in benefits, a position that Hillary Clinton adopted earlier this year when she tweeted to Sanders, “I won’t cut Social Security. As always, I’ll defend it and expand it.”
While campaigning in 2008, then-Sen. Obama often spoke about the need to strengthen and stabilize Social Security by raising the amount of income that is taxed, thereby providing more money for the program. He later agreed to a GOP-backed proposal to reduce benefits by changing how they are calculated as part of efforts to reach a so-called “grand bargain” on the budget. He abandoned that plan after failing to reach such a deal with congressional Republicans.
At a stop in Elkhart, Indiana, on Wednesday, where he touted his administration’s economic policies, the President spoke not just of strengthening the program upon which millions of older citizens rely but of expanding it.
“Fewer and fewer people have pensions they can really count on, which is why Social Security is more important than ever,” Obama said. “We can’t afford to weaken Social Security. We should be strengthening Social Security, and not only do we need to strengthen its long-term health, 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 could start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more.”
The White House said the President’s statement was not an expression of a new policy but part of a collection of ideas he has been promoting since his first campaign for the White House.
“Dating back to 2007, the President has discussed a variety of ways to strengthen Social Security, both in terms of extending the solvency of the Social Security Trust Fund but also potentially strengthening the assistance that it provides to Americans across the country,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday.
Although Sanders is unlikely to clinch the Democratic nomination, in recent months he has said he wants to have a large influence on the party’s platform at its national convention in July, and Social Security is certain to be among the policies discussed.