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Progressives’ Social Security Delusion

October 14, 2015

By Andrew Biggs

The first Democratic presidential debate, held in Las Vegas on Tuesday, was a progressive bidding-war on a number of issues, and nowhere more so than Social Security. Gone are the 1990s, when moderate Democrats favored reducing benefits or raising the retirement age to keep the troubled retirement program solvent. Despite larger long-term funding deficits and a trust fund insolvency date that is two decades closer, Democrats in 2015 are divided between those who want to fix the program without any benefit cuts and those who want to expand the system.

Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to progressives’ disappointment, pledged merely to keep Social Security from going under: “I’m going to look for ways to try to make sure [Social Security is] solvent into the future.” Not exactly a rock-solid promise, but even that was too much for some on the left who think a focus on solvency – i.e., making sure Social Security can pay for what it has promised – distracts from their more important agenda item of expanding Social Security.

As progressive LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik put it, “Both [Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Gov. Martin O’Malley] have come out explicitly for raising the tax cap and increasing benefits for all retirees as a way to make up for the erosion of retirement resources from such traditional sources as employer pensions and personal savings.” Sanders has a reform plan that has been scored by Social Security’s actuaries while O’Malley has only an outline, but both would raise taxes and benefits significantly. Clinton’s focus on solvency, with only a mention of benefit enhancement for certain vulnerable groups such as widows, “left many Social Security advocates feeling a tad uneasy,” Hiltzik says.

Read the full article at Forbes.com: Progressives' Social Security Delusion