At first blush, the idea of a Democratic presidential candidate voicing strong support for Social Security may not seem like a noteworthy development, but Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders had an interesting exchange the other day that led to an important substantive point of agreement.
In most of the major debt-reduction plans put forward in recent years – the Grand Bargain, Simpson-Bowles, et al – Democrats have been asked to accept some Social Security cuts as part of a broader compromise. For many on the left, such a provision is not only a deal-breaker, it’s also backwards, since they believe Social Security should be expanded, not cut.
And with this in mind, many progressive activists are looking for commitments from the presidential candidate: are Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton prepared to rule out Social Security cuts if elected? Sanders wasted no time in making that vow, tweeting on Friday, “I urge Sec. Clinton to join me in saying loudly and clearly that we will never cut Social Security.”
As the Huffington Post reported, the senator didn’t have to wait too long for Clinton’s response.
Hillary Clinton promised on Friday that she would not cut Social Security benefits, winning praise from progressive groups that had pressured her to take such a stance – but drawing questions from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who challenged her commitment to the issue.“I won’t cut Social Security,” Clinton wrote in an initialed tweet that included a link to her campaign website’s Social Security page. “As always, I’ll defend it, & I’ll expand it. Enough false innuendos.”
For many Beltway debt hawks, this was no doubt a disappointment, but for progressive activists who pushed the candidates to make exactly this commitment, it was a victory for the left and for Social Security itself.
For its part, the Sanders campaign said in response, “We’re glad that, for the first time, Secretary Clinton has indicated that she will join me in expanding Social Security benefits. But we need more clarity.” In particular, Sanders wants to know, “Is she prepared to scrap the cap on payroll taxes?”
The Clinton campaign’s website, which she referenced in her tweet, fleshed out a relatively detailed outline of her approach, which includes raising, but not necessarily scrapping, the current cap.
It’s a relevant detail, and it may serve as an area of disagreement between the two, but when it comes to Social Security in a broader sense, it appears Clinton and Sanders are on the same page – exactly where progressive activists hoped they’d be.