Senator Elizabeth Warren wants to provide 70 million seniors with one-time bumps to their Social Security checks next year, to make up for a quirk in a federal formula that leaves them with no cost of living increase in 2016.
The Massachusetts Democrat will introduce legislation Thursday that would provide roughly $580 extra per senior next year — an increase of about 3.9 percent. Warren would fund the change by eliminating provisions used to shield corporate compensation from taxes. Her office said the legislation would cost an estimated $40 billion.
Though the bill stands little chance of becoming law in a Congress controlled by Republicans, it will probably serve as a marker for progressives in the Democratic primary contest for president. The liberal wing of the party takes cues from Warren, particularly, on economic issues, and her legislation is bound to become part of the left's litmus test for candidates.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who tends to have less support from older voters, has said that he wants to expand Social Security benefits and would pay for his changes by boosting taxes on the wealthy. Currently, only the first $118,000 of income is subject to Social Security taxes — and Sanders would increase that cap so more income would be exposed to the taxes.
Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton has been more circumspect about the entitlement program. When pressed on whether she would support expanding Social Security during the first Democratic debate, Clinton said that she wants to "enhance" benefits for "the poorest recipients."
"We have a lot of women on Social Security, particularly widowed and single women who didn't make a lot of money during their careers, and they are impoverished. They need more help from the Social Security system."
Warren's bill is designed to provide older Americans with the same increase top executives received. She based the boost on an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute that showed 350 top chief executives received 3.9 percent pay increases from 2013 to 2014.
"This discrepancy isn't an accident," Warren said in a one- page explanation of her bill. "It's the result of choices made by Congress. It's time for us to make different choices. If multibillion dollar CEOs are getting a raise, seniors and veterans should get one, too."
Annie Linskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.