In a previously unreported discussion, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders urged President Joe Biden to ensure Social Security is fully funded through the end of the century by increasing taxes on wealthier Americans, according to a report published Thursday.
During the hourlong meeting on January 25—which took place before Biden and Sanders (I-Vt.) shot a video together about student debt—the democratic socialist senator pushed the president to expand payroll taxes on high-income Americans, The Washington Postreports. Currently, only the first $160,000 in earnings is subject to payroll tax.
Sanders reportedly asked Biden to support his plan—which is highly unlikely to gain congressional approval—to expand Social Security benefits by $2,400 annually for each recipient. Biden was noncommittal, according to the senator.
"Extending the solvency of Social Security for 75 years and increasing benefits should be a no-brainer."
Earlier this month, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) unveiled legislation, with a similar bill introduced in the House, to increase Social Security benefits by at least $200 per month.
"It is not enough to point out the reactionary, anti-worker vision of the Republican Party. We have to present a positive, pro-worker alternative," Sanders said. "The truth is that Social Security does have a solvency problem, and we have got to address that."
As the Post's Jeff Stein wrote:
Biden has for weeks leaned into the simple message that he is determined to block GOP efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare for millions of seniors. Left unanswered in these attacks is what Biden, himself, wants to do to address the massive funding shortfalls facing the programs, which face catastrophic benefit reductions within a decade if lawmakers take no action.
"Extending the solvency of Social Security for 75 years and increasing benefits should be a no-brainer," tweeted Stephanie Quilao, a California-based vegan climate activist and 2016 Sanders delegate. "It's an issue that most Americans agree with across the political spectrum. Scrap the cap only impacts the very wealthy, no one in the working class."
The advocacy group Social Security Works noted that "President Biden has pledged to protect Social Security and veto any legislation that cuts the program."
"That's a great first step," the group argued. "Now, he should release a plan to expand benefits."
The economic justice group Patriotic Millionaires wrote on Twitter that "Sen. Sanders is right—it's essential that Biden take a firm stand in support of Social Security, especially if that distinguishes Democrats from the GOP."
"Our seniors deserve a comfortable retirement," the group added, "and the GOP is not their friend."
Meanwhile, Republicans—despite howling protestations to the contrary—keep signaling their openness to slashing Social Security. Earlier this week, former Vice President Mike Pence, a potential 2024 GOP presidential hopeful, appeared on MSNBC and said that "we all know where the real issue is in terms of long-term debt for the United States."
"I respect the speaker's commitment to take Social Security and Medicare off the table for the debt ceiling negotiations," said Pence, referring to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) spot pledge to preserve the crucial social programs during Biden's State of the Union address, "[but] we've got to put them on the table in the long term."
In an opinion piece published by Common Dreams on Thursday, Social Security Works president Nancy Altman asserted that "poll after poll shows that such a potential Biden expansion plan would be extremely popular."
"Because Social Security is so important, painting the contrast—Democrats want to expand Social Security, Republicans want to cut it—is a much more powerful message than simply attacking Republicans, polling reveals," she continued.
"If the debate over cutting or expanding Social Security is a major issue in 2024, Democrats will be in a strong position to retain the White House and the Senate, while retaking the House," Altman added. "They will then be able to hold votes on Social Security—in the sunshine, not behind closed doors."