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Hillary Clinton on Social Security

Secretary of State; previously Democratic Senator (NY)


No lifting cap on payroll tax; that taxes middle class

Q: Would you take a pledge of no tax increases on people under $250,000?

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.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary , Apr 16, 2008

Bipartisan commission, like in 1983, to address crisis

OBAMA: [to Clinton]: I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we’re going to stabilize the Social Security system and not just say that we’re going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

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.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary , Apr 16, 2008

FactCheck: No, teachers & police won’t pay if cap over $102K

Clinton exaggerated when she said that lifting the cap on wages that are subject to the Social Security tax “would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.”

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.

Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Philadelphia primary debate , Apr 16, 2008

FactCheck: Yes, removing $97,500 cap affects middle-class

Clinton called Obama’s proposal to raise Social Security taxes on annual earnings over $97,500 “a trillion-dollar increase on middle class families.” Obama defended his proposal: “Only 6% of Americans make more than $97,000--so 6% is not the middle class --it’s the upper class.” Clinton responded that some of her constituents would still find the increase burdensome. “I represent firefighters. I represent school supervisors,” she said.

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.”

Source: FactCheck on 2007 Democratic debate in Las Vegas , Nov 15, 2007

Have a bipartisan commission on Social Security and its tax

Q: Did you say you would consider lifting the cap perhaps above $200,000?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic debate at Drexel University , Oct 30, 2007

1997: Hillary warned against privatizing Social Security

Following two and a half years of study, members of Bill’s Advisory Co until on Social Security offered proposals for investing a portion of Social Security retirement funds in the stock market. Hillary reacted emphatically to the report, telling her husband, “We mustn’t let Social Security be privatized.”
Source: For Love of Politics, by Sally Bedell Smith, p.269 , Oct 23, 2007

$1000 matching tax credit for first $1000 in 401(k) deposit

Rudy Giuliani incorrectly described a proposal by Clinton to boost Americans’ 401(k) plans. Giuliani said, “She’s going to give out $1,000 to everybody, to set up a 401(k).”

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.

Source: FactCheck on 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn MI , Oct 9, 2007

Solvent until 2055 under Bill Clinton; now has lost 14 years

Q: How would you reform Social Security?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Nothing else on table until fiscal responsibility returns

Q: Would you raise the cap for Social Security tax above the current level of the first $97,500 worth of income, or take that off the table?

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.

Source: 2007 Democratic primary debate at Dartmouth College , Sep 6, 2007

Make sure nobody ever tries to privatize Social Security

We’ve got to make sure that nobody ever tries to privatize Social Security, something that I’ve fought tooth and nail with many of you to prevent.
Source: 2007 AFL-CIO Democratic primary forum , Aug 8, 2007

Soc.Sec. one of greatest inventions in American democracy

Q: What would you do to fix the problems with Social Security?

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.

Source: NY 2006 Senate Debate, at University of Rochester , Oct 22, 2006

Social Security protects families, not just retirees

Like many Americans, I got my Social Security card when I was a teenager and applied for my first job. Then, of course, I didn’t understand that my wallet-sized card represented a commitment that every American could grow old with dignity. I also didn’t understand that Social Security is not just for the elderly-and not just for retirement. Nearly 1/3 of its beneficiaries are either disabled, widows, widowers or surviving dependents. Social Security is a family protection system.
Source: “Talking It Over” column , Feb 17, 1999

All should join the debate now to preserve future solvency

It’s in all our interests to preserve and strengthen Social Security into the next century. And if we don’t want to burden our children and grandchildren-if we want to make sure Social Security remains solvent well into the 21st century-we must make bold decisions now. All our voices must be heard. Republicans and Democrats, men and women, young and old-all Americans must be an integral part of the public debate. Your voice matters. As we embark on this critical national debate, make yours heard.
Source: “Talking It Over” column , Feb 17, 1999

Respect unique power of government to meet social needs

Competing visions of the role of government and the rights of individuals exist all along the political spectrum. Most of us hold a point of view that exists somewhere between the extremes. We may grumble about taxes, but we generally support programs like veterans’ benefits, Social Security, and Medicare, along with public education, environmental protection, and some sort of social safety net for the poor. We are wary of government interference with private initiative or personal belief and the excessive influence of special interests on the political system. We respect the unique power of government to meet certain social needs and acknowledge the need to limit its powers.

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.

Source: It Takes A Village, by Hillary Clinton, p.286 , Sep 25, 1996

Elderly poor are hit hardest by delays in COLA increases

In the 1990 budget deal they had looked at delaying the cost-of-living allowances (COLAs) for Social Security recipients for 3 months. Every year, all Social Security beneficiaries got an increase in their checks to account for inflation; delaying these increases was often discussed but rarely done. A 3-month delay would save $20 billion over 3 years.

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.

Source: The Agenda, by Bob Woodward, p. 87-88 , Jun 6, 1994

Voted NO on establishing reserve funds & pre-funding for Social Security.

Voting YES would:
  1. require that the Federal Old Age and Survivors Trust Fund be used only to finance retirement income of future beneficiaries;
  2. ensure that there is no change to benefits for individuals born before January 1, 1951
  3. provide participants with the benefits of savings and investment while permitting the pre-funding of at least some portion of future benefits; and
  4. ensure that the funds made available to finance such legislation do not exceed the amounts estimated to be actuarially available.

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."

Make no mistake about it, this is a stalking-horse for Social Security. It looks good on the surface, but this is an amendment to privatize Social Security.
Reference: Bill S.Amdt.489 on S.Con.Res.21 ; vote number 2007-089 on Mar 22, 2007

Create Retirement Savings Accounts.

Clinton adopted the manifesto, "A New Agenda for the New Decade":

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.

Source: The Hyde Park Declaration 00-DLC7 on Aug 1, 2000

Rated 100% by the ARA, indicating a pro-senior voting record.

Clinton scores 100% by the ARA on senior issues

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.

Source: ARA website 03n-ARA on Dec 31, 2003

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Other candidates on Social Security: Hillary Clinton on other issues:
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First Obama Administration:
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DOT:Ray LaHood
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Page last updated: Mar 09, 2014