Last week, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was a featured speaker at the United Steel Workers 2011 conference in Las Vegas.
Sanders focused much of his speech on the Social Security system, blasting suggestions by Democrats and Republicans alike that, for example, we should adjust the cost of living adjustment to cut Social Security payments to working class Americans or raise the retirement age. “When [Social Security] was developed, 50 percent of seniors lived in poverty. Today, poverty among seniors is too high, but that number is ten percent. Social Security has done exactly what it was designed to do!” he thundered, defending the program. Watch it:
Today, Sanders announced that he will introduce legislation that would strengthen Social Security without cutting benefits to any of its beneficiaries. Sanders’ legislation would eliminate the income cap that currently exists in the payroll tax that does not tax income above $106,800:
To keep Social Security strong for another 75 years, Sanders’ legislation would apply the same payroll tax already paid by more than nine out of 10 Americans to those with incomes over $250,000 a year. […] Under Sanders’ legislation, Social Security benefits would be untouched. The system would be fully funded by making the wealthiest Americans pay the same payroll tax already assessed on those with incomes up to $106,800 a year.
Sanders points out that President Obama himself endorsed this idea on the campaign trail in 2008. “What we need to do is to raise the cap on the payroll tax so that wealthy individuals are paying a little bit more into the system. Right now, somebody like Warren Buffet pays a fraction of 1 percent of his income in payroll tax, whereas the majority…pays payroll tax on 100 percent of their income. I’ve said that was not fair,” said Obama during the campaign.
Recall that polling shows that even a majority of self-identified tea partiers would rather raise the payroll tax cap than raise the retirement age.