Meeting at a seniors’ center in New Hampshire on Friday, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders called for strengthening Social Security, raising retirement benefits and bringing down skyrocketing prescription drug prices.
Sanders told the gathering at the William B. Cashin Senior Activity Center that the most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to make millionaires and billionaires pay the same share of their income as everyone else. Instead of capping income subject to the payroll tax at $118,500, as current law does, Sanders would make those earning $250,000 and up, the top 1.5 percent of wage earners, pay the same share into Social Security.
In New Hampshire, more than 42,000 seniors, orphans and disabled people rely on Social Security benefits, which last year averaged $14,987. Without Social Security, more than 41 percent of the elderly in New Hampshire, including more than 45 percent of senior women, would be living in poverty. With Social Security, the elderly poverty rate in New Hampshire is 5.7 percent.
Sanders has proposed legislation which would increase benefits by an average of $65 a month and lift low-income seniors out of poverty by expanding the minimum benefit. It also would base annual inflation adjustments on a formula that accurately measures the real-life spending patterns of seniors who pay a disproportionate amount of their income on health care and prescription drugs. To pay for the increased benefits, he would gradually scrap the cap on income subject to the payroll tax.
While he would strengthen the retirement program for future generations, Sanders stressed that Social Security has a $2.8 trillion surplus, enough to pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 19 years.
Sanders visited the senior center two days after former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in remarks at St. Anselm’s College, reportedly declined to back an across-the-board benefit boost, left open the possibility of raising the retirement age and stopped short of saying the wealthiest wage earners should pay the same percent of their income as everyone else.