Personal Finance

Here's how Social Security could change under these Democratic presidential candidates

Key Points
  • The field of Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race is currently focused on three main candidates: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
  • All three of those candidates' campaigns call for expanding Social Security benefits and raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for it.
  • Here are the specifics of their plans, including how much Americans could take in — and pay — to extend the system's solvency.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) interact on stage during the Democratic Presidential Debate at Texas Southern University's Health and PE Center on September 12, 2019 in Houston, Texas.
Win McNamee | Getty Images

When it comes to changes to Social Security, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has a plan for that.

The aspiring Democratic nominee and Massachusetts senator revealed how she would fix the nation's social insurance program earlier this month.

That plan includes boosting checks for current and future beneficiaries by $200 a month while increasing taxes on the rich.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren proposes hike in social security benefits

Warren's proposal comes as House Democrats are pushing for a vote on their own plan for reform, the Social Security 2100 Act.

And she's not the only top Democratic presidential candidate to come up with a plan to fix the program, which faces a funding shortfall in 2035 if nothing is done by then to fix the program.

Leading contenders for the Democratic nomination include former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. I-Vt. Both politicians campaigns' have also outlined plans for overhauling the program.

Here's a look at where those candidates stand on the issue.

2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019.
Scott Morgan | Reuters

Joe Biden

Biden is still in the lead in the polls, with 31% support, according to a recent NBC/WSJ poll.

Like other Democrats, Biden backs expanding Social Security.

"We should be increasing, not decreasing, Social Security," Biden said earlier this year.

To achieve that goal, Biden's campaign also calls for raising taxes on wealthy Americans. High wage earners should pay the same taxes as middle class families, according to his plan.

Biden also calls for increasing benefits in several ways.

For example, his plan calls for setting a minimum benefit so that all individuals who have put in at least 30 years of work would get a benefit equal to at least 125% of the federal poverty level.

Americans who have received retirement benefits for at least 20 years would get a raise.

Widows and widowers would see an increase of about 20% more per month.

More specific details, such as what a new tax rate would be, are not included in the proposal.

2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks during a campaign event in West Branch, Iowa, August 19, 2019.
Al Drago | Reuters

Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator came in with 14% support in the NBC/WSJ poll.

Sanders' campaign proposal to expand Social Security is part of his broader plan to give Americans a "secure retirement."

Today, the Social Security payroll tax is capped at annual earnings of $132,900. Sanders proposes lifting that cap to apply to all income over $250,000.

That tax increase will help guarantee that the system can pay benefits for the next 52 years, according to the plan.

More specifically, Sanders also proposes giving a $1,300 per year benefit increase to seniors with annual incomes of $16,000 or less.

He also calls for raising benefits for low-income workers when they retire, though his plan does not specify how much that increase would be.

2020 Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren speaks during the Presidential Gun Sense Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, August 10, 2019.
Scott Morgan | Reuters

Elizabeth Warren

Warren has recently garnered more support in polls, coming in with 25% support in the recent NBC/WSJ poll.

The Massachusetts senator has come out with the most specific proposal for how she would save Social Security. That includes a calculator on her campaign website to show how much an individual's benefits would increase.

Her plan would increase benefits for all current and future beneficiaries by $200 per month, or $2,400 per year.

Warren also calls for increasing benefits for low-income workers, women, disabled individuals, public sector workers and minorities.

In order to pay for those increases, families in the top 2% would have to pay more.

That includes a 14.8% payroll tax on incomes above $250,000, which would be split evenly between employees and employers.

In addition, Warren's plan also calls for a 14.8% tax on net investment income for individuals who take in more than $250,000 in annual income or and couples earning more than $400,000.

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