Hillary Clinton on Social Security
Secretary of State; previously Democratic Senator (NY)
CLINTON: No. And I'll tell you why. Right now if you look at who draws Social Security for the longest time, people who have worked hard for many years, people who are often really broken down by the physical labor or the repetitive labor that they've done. Their lifespan is much lower than the lifespan of people like you and me who had a different sort of life, made our monies different ways, didn't have to work that hard. So right now the average death age for a lot of Americans and Latinos and African-Americans is lower than the average death age of whites. And that's lower still than the age of people who are affluent and well educated. So raising the retirement age would very well eliminate a lot of hardworking people from getting much Social Security at all. I will not do that. I want people to have the best possible older years. So that is ruled out to me.
CLINTON: I fully support Social Security. And the most important fight we're going to have is defending it against continuing Republican efforts to privatize it.
Q: Do you want to expand it?
CLINTON: I want to enhance the benefits for the poorest recipients of Social Security. We have a lot of women on Social Security, particularly widowed and single women who didn't make a lot of money during their careers, and they are impoverished, and they need more help from the Social Security system. And I will focus on helping those people who need it the most. And of course I'm going to defend Social Security. I'm going to look for ways to try to make sure it's solvent into the future. And we also need to talk about health care at some time, because we agree on the goals, we just disagree on the means.
One account from the Associated Press featured a conversation between a campaigning Clinton and an Iowa voter in which the candidate said she might consider committing more of workers' income to Social Security. "She told him she didn't want to put an additional tax burden on the middle class but would consider a 'gap,' with no Social Security taxes on income from $97,500 to around $200,000. Anything above that could be taxed," according to the article.
Ultimately, Clinton officially shied away from the increase in taxes, and stuck with official comments that revolved around improving the economy overall.
OBAMA: I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I would cut their taxes. We are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive of our taxes.
CLINTON: I don’t want to raise taxes on anybody. I’m certainly against one of Senator Obama’s ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are educators, police officers, firefighters and the like.
OBAMA: What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don’t have to pay beyond $97,000 a year. Now most firefighters & teachers, they’re not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6% of the population does. And I’ve also said that I’d be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.
Q: But that’s a tax on people under $250,000.
OBAMA: That’s why I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.
CLINTON: I am totally committed to making sure Social Security is solvent. You’ve got to begin to reign in the budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social Security Trust Fund. And with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security wa 1983. Pres. Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you’ve got to get Republicans and Democrats together. That’s what I will do. And I will say, #1, don’t cut benefits on current beneficiaries they’re already having a hard enough time. And #2, do not impose additional tax burdens on middle-class families.
OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, and also raised the payroll tax. So Sen. Clinton can’t have it both ways.
In fact, only individuals earning more than $102,000 a year would be affected. A spokesman for the union representing Philadelphia’s public school teachers tells FactCheck.org, “There are some affluent suburban districts where only the most senior educators with a master’s degree and probably 25 or more years of experience whose salaries might approach 100k. However, I think that’s a very small number overall.“
As for Philadelphia police officers, an officer would have to work more than 1,200 hours of overtime in a year to push even the highest base salary above $102,000.
The Clinton campaign pointed to budget figures showing that principals of Philadelphia’s large high schools earn $111,500 on average.
The base pay of an NYC firefighter is $68,475 after 5 years on the job. So Clinton is being misleading to suggest that a rank-&-file firefighter would be affected. On the other hand, FDNY captains make $140,173 with overtime. For them, Obama’s proposal could amount to a $2,646 tax increase. As for school administrators, in NY state there are few that make less than $100,000 a year.
Obama may be correct to say that only the top 6.5% of earners would be affected. But we judge that Obama is being misleading to say that his proposal would tax only the “upper class.”
A: I have said consistently that my plan for Social Security is fiscal responsibility first, then to deal with any long-term challenges. We would have a bipartisan commission. All of these would be considered. I do not want to balance Social Security on the backs of our seniors & middle-class families. We have to move back toward a more fair and progressive tax system, and begin to move toward a balanced budget with a surplus.
It’s simply not true that Clinton proposes to give out $1,000 to “everybody.” That sum would only go to those making $60,000 a year or less, and only if they also contribute $1,000 of their own to their 401(k) plans. Specifically, she proposed providing “a matching refundable tax credit for the first $1,000 of savings [in a 401(k) done by every married couple making up to $60,000,“ according to the details of the plan on her Web site. ”The plan will provide a 50% match on the first $1000 of savings for every couple making between $60,000 and $100,000, which will be phased out after that.“ Money could be placed in an existing 401(k) or a new ”American Retirement Account,“ which Clinton would make available for those who either don’t have a 401(k) through their employers or like the government-offered plan better.
A: First, I think that it’s important to talk about fiscal responsibility. You know, when my husband left office after moving us toward a balanced budget, we had a plan to make Social Security solvent until 2055 Now, because of the return to deficits, we’ve lost 14 years of solvency. It’s now projected to be solvent until 2041. Getting back on a path of fiscal responsibility is absolutely essential. Second, I think we do need another bipartisan process, as in 1983. That has to happen again, but with a president who is dedicated to Social Security, unlike our current president; when he first ran for Congress he was dissing Social Security.
Q: When the Clinton administration left office, Social Security was only guaranteed to 2038, not 2055.
A: There was a plan, on the basis of the balanced budget and the surplus, to take it all the way to 2055. Then George Bush came in, went back to deficits, and has basically used the trust fund to pay for the war.
A: Well, I take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don’t think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.
Q: But Senator Biden says you can’t grow your way out of this. A simple question: What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say, “We’re not going to double the taxes, we’re not going to cut benefits in half; I’m willing to put everything on the table, some things on the table, nothing on the table”?
A: I’m not putting anything on the proverbial table until we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it’s a mistake to do that.
SPENCER: I would support the concept, that Sen. Clinton calls ruining Social Security, that we can do better than making 2%, as it does now. We should look at various programs that allow people some control over their money, with protections & caps. They call that privatizing to scare everybody away, but the bottom line is working together so younger generations can make more than 2% on Social Security.
CLINTON: Social Security is one of the greatest inventions in American democracy, and I will do everything possible to protect & defend it, starting with getting back to fiscal responsibility, instead of borrowing from the Social Security trust fund. We need to provide some additional opportunities for people to invest, on top of their base guarantee of Social Security, more of a chance to build their nest egg. The risky scheme to privatize would cost between $1 and $2 trillion. That would undermine the promise of Social Security.
In times of profound social change like the present, extreme views hold out the appeal of simplicity. By ignoring the complexity of the forces that shape our personal and collective circumstances, they offer us scapegoats. Yet they fail to provide a viable pathway from the cold war to the global village.
Hillary Clinton wanted to be sure that everyone at the table was thinking about the real lives behind their decisions. "Does anyone have numbers regarding people with COLAs?" Hillary inquired. How many people received the cost-of-living allowances and had some other income to help them out?
No one had an answer. She knew it was a basic issue for millions who lived on Social Security. There were lots of ways of taking on Social Security costs, and delaying the increases would be about the least progressive of them. The poor, who often rely on Social Security as their only source of retirement income, would be hit the hardest.
Proponents recommend voting YES because:
Perhaps the worst example of wasteful spending is when we take the taxes people pay for Social Security and, instead of saving them, we spend them on other things. Even worse than spending Social Security on other things is we do not count it as debt when we talk about the deficit every year. So using the Social Security money is actually a way to hide even more wasteful spending without counting it as debt. This Amendment would change that.
Opponents recommend voting NO because:
This amendment has a fatal flaw. It leaves the door open for private Social Security accounts by providing participants with the option of "pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits."
Balance America’s Commitments to the Young and the Old
An ever-growing share of the federal budget today consists of automatic transfers from working Americans to retirees. Moreover, the costs of the big entitlements for the elderly -- Social Security and Medicare -- are growing at rates that will eventually bankrupt them and that could leave little to pay for everything else government does. We can’t just spend our way out of the problem; we must find a way to contain future costs. The federal government already spends seven times as much on the elderly as it does on children. To allow that ratio to grow even more imbalanced would be grossly unfair to today’s workers and future generations. In addition, Social Security and Medicare need to be modernized to reflect conditions not envisioned when they were created in the 1930s and the 1960s. Social Security, for example, needs a stronger basic benefit to bolster its critical role in reducing poverty in old age. Medicare needs to offer retirees more choices and a modern benefit package that includes prescription drugs. Such changes, however, will only add to the cost of the programs unless they are accompanied by structural reforms that restrain their growth and limit their claim on the working families whose taxes support the programs.
The mission of the Alliance for Retired Americans is to ensure social and economic justice and full civil rights for all citizens so that they may enjoy lives of dignity, personal and family fulfillment and security. The Alliance believes that all older and retired persons have a responsibility to strive to create a society that incorporates these goals and rights and that retirement provides them with opportunities to pursue new and expanded activities with their unions, civic organizations and their communities.
The following ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.
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