A few years ago President Obama was theoretically on board with doing something to address run-away entitlement spending, including cutting back the rate of increase of Social Security payments. Yesterday, Obama reversed course and announced that it was time to expand the program.
Speaking in Elkhart, Indiana Wednesday, Obama said, “it’s time we finally made Social Security more generous, and increased its benefits so that today’s retirees and future generations get the dignified retirement that they’ve earned.” As for how he would pay for it, Obama was vague. “We could start paying for it by asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute a little bit more, ” he said, adding, “They can afford it.”
Andrew Biggs at Forbes points out the program already has a significant shortfall in its future:
Since President Obama took office in 2009, the Social Security program’s long-term funding shortfall has risen from $5.3 trillion to $10.7 trillion – not what you’d call progress. I had once hoped that, in the waning days of his administration, the President would make one last effort to forge a compromise on Social Security. What the President has done instead is endorse expanding Social Security benefits, a policy that would make the Social Security funding problem harder to solve.
As Biggs sees it, this turnaround is the result of Bernie Sanders dragging the Overton window to the left.
Expanding Social Security was once a fringe idea in the Democratic Party, a view held by a small number of activists who had no interest in compromise or conciliation. But when fringe actors take over a political party, a fringe view can become the party line.
And that’s exactly what happened. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders embraced Social Security expansion as a major theme of his campaign, where it served both to whet the appetites of his supporters for more government spending and to assure them of his ideological purity. There would be no grand bargains with Republicans in a Sanders administration.
Hillary Clinton has also called for expansion of Social Security benefits but her plan is targeted to certain recipients, whereas Sanders and Obama are calling for an expansion that would presumably include everyone.
Fox News did this report which includes video of the President’s statement (starts at about 50 seconds in to this clip):