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3 Top Democratic Presidential Contenders' Retirement Income Proposals

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Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic primary candidates leading the polls right now.

Their disagreements about how to improve the U.S. health finance system have been making big headlines.

Their ideas about retirement income security have created less drama and attracted less attention.

(Related: 5 Democratic Presidential Contenders’ Views on THAT)

Last week, Warren proposed increasing older Americans’ Social Security benefits by $200 per month, and that generated some headlines. But even many of the presidential primary campaign news articles that mentioned Social Security last week had Medicare or health care in the headline.

Here’s what the top Democratic presidential contenders had about retirement income security in the main retirement income sections on their websites, at press time.

For the candidates’ retirement income web links, see the slides in the slideshow above.

1. Joe Biden

The former vice president of the United States has a  section on his website on Social Security and a section on retirement savings incentives.

In his Social Security section, Biden calls for:

  • Having high-wage Americans pay more to shore up Social Security.
  • Keeping Social Security a public program that’s available to all, without use of private accounts.
  • Providing a higher benefit for people who have been receiving Social Security benefits for at least 20 years.
  • Setting the minimum Social Security benefit for workers who have spent at least 30 years working at 125% of the federal poverty level.
  • Letting widows and widowers keep some of the Social Security benefits of the deceased spouse, to make sure the surviving spouse can still handle the bills.
  • Changing the retirement benefits rules for teachers and other public-sector workers.

For retirement savings, Biden calls for:

  • Offering low-income and middle-income workers who contribute to defined contribution retirement plans the same tax benefits that higher-income workers get.
  • Removing penalties for caregivers who want to save for retirement.
  • Giving small businesses a tax break for starting an “automatic 401(k)” retirement plan and giving more workers the chance to save at work.

2. Bernie Sanders

The senator from Vermont has a website section on Social Security and a section on defined benefit pensions.

In the Social Security section, Sanders says that, “Let’s be clear: Social Security is not ‘going broke.’ Social Security has a $2.9 trillion surplus and can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 16 years.”

Sanders calls for:

  • Expanding Social Security and strengthening its finances by lifting the current $132,900-per-year cap on the amount of income subject to Social Security withholding taxes.
  • Expanding benefits across-the-board, including a $1,300-a-year benefit increase for seniors with incomes of $16,000 a year or less.
  • Increasing the minimum benefits paid to low-income workers when they retire.
  • Increasing Social Security cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with the rising cost of health care and prescription drugs, by tying the increases to a new Consumer Price Index for the Elderly.

In Sanders’ “Protecting Pensions” section, he says he will:

  • Sign an executive order to impose a moratorium on future pension cuts.
  • Reverse cuts to retirement benefits that have already been made.
  • Make multi-employer pensions plans solvent by closing loopholes that allow the wealthiest Americans to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

3. Elizabeth Warren

Warren says in the Social Security section on her campaign site that she would raise revenue by:

  • Imposing a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on individual wages above $250,000, split equally between employees and employers.
  • Imposing a 14.8% Social Security contribution requirement on net investment income that applies only to individuals making more than $250,000 in annual income or families making more than $400,000 in annual income.
  • Changing current Affordable Care Act net investment income tax rules that let wealthy owners of partnerships and other businesses to avoid having to pay the tax.

Warren says she would expand Social Security benefits by:

  • Increasing Social Security benefits immediately, by $200 a month, to $2,400 a year, for every current and future beneficiary.
  • Changing Social Security benefits rules to compensate for past wage discrimination and increase benefits for lower-income families, women, people with disabilities, public-sector workers, and people of color.
  • Creating a new Social Security earnings credit for workers who take time out from paid work to serve as caregivers for family members.
  • Improving benefits for widowed individuals from dual-earner households, and for widowed individuals with disabilities.
  • Restructuring the current Social Security special minimum benefit provision, to increase the minimum benefit and make more people eligible to receive the minimum benefit.
  • Letting teachers and police officers collect full Social Security benefits, by eliminating the current government pension offset system.

Warren says she also would increase Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative services funding.

— Read Democrats Should Stop the Health Policy Bickering: Cory Booker, on ThinkAdvisor.

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