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Election 2016: Where Democrats Stand on Social Security

By Jordan Wathen – Feb 7, 2016 at 2:13PM

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Here's where Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton stand on raising Social Security taxes and changing benefits.

Democratic contenders Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have grand plans for Social Security, aiming to increase taxes to fund benefits, while making changes to the benefits that American seniors collect from the program.

Here's a brief summary of how the two candidates stand on Social Security. 

On raising taxes
Voters who have yet to reach retirement age should pay particular attention to the Democrat's stances on Social Security. Both candidates have suggested that they are open to raising taxes on high income earners to fund the program.

In 2016, Social Security taxes are only assessed on the first $118,500 of taxable income. Bernie Sanders would like to remove the cap, making sure that anyone who earns more than $250,000 per year will continue to pay Social Security taxes on their earnings. Hillary Clinton set the bar for the cap slightly lower at $200,000 per year.

Both candidates seem willing to allow a gap between the current cap on taxable income ($118,500) and the point at which taxes are collected once again ($200,000 for Clinton and $250,000 for Sanders) so that "middle class" families are not affected by a higher tax burden.

On increasing benefits
The candidates' policies diverge when it comes to the methods for raising benefits for Social Security recipients.

Sanders supports a general increase in benefits, an increase in the minimum benefit, and would like to use a more favorable price index to calculate annual cost of living increases. 

His plan calls for an average increase in benefits of $65 per month, in addition to an increase in the annual cost of living adjustment by using the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). A report published by the Social Security Administration estimates that using CPI-E would result in a 0.2 percentage point increase in benefits each year as elderly consumer's expenses tend to rise at a greater rate than prices for all Americans. 

Clinton hasn't proposed changes in ordinary benefits received by Social Security beneficiaries, though she does support the creation of a "caregiver credit" and favors raising survivor benefits.

Specific Clinton policies are few and far between, though a common proposal for a caregiver credit involves counting up to five years caring for a family member as time spent working for the purposes of determining post-retirement benefits. Survivor benefits are Social Security benefits received by a widow or child after the death of a spouse or parent, to provide additional economic support to replace lost income or Social Security benefits.

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