MADISON, Wis., Sept. 17 - U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed reports that President Barack Obama won't include changes to Social Security benefits in his proposal to reduce long-term deficits.
"I am delighted that the White House has decided not to cut benefits under the program that has kept millions of retirees out of poverty," said Sanders. "Social Security has $2.5 trillion surplus, can pay out every benefit for the next 27 years and has not contributed one nickel to the deficit. Social Security should be strengthened, not cut."
Obama on Monday is to deliver his recommendations to a congressional super committee working on ways to cut deficits by up to $1.5 trillion over the next decade. Sanders renewed his message to the powerful panel: "The Republicans are wrong. Social Security must not be cut. It must be strengthened."
Sanders was in Wisconsin for the Fighting Bob Fest, a gathering of progressives at an annual festival named for Sen. Robert LaFollette, the 1924 progressive presidential candidate.
Sanders founded the 19-member Defending Social Security Caucus in the Senate He has been an outspoken opponent of earlier proposals by the White House and congressional Republicans to reduce benefits for retirees and the disabled. Last July, during talks with congressional Republicans over raising the nation's debt ceiling, the White House proposed reducing cost-of-living adjustments for most Social Security recipients. Sanders noted at the time that Obama had promised during his 2008 campaign not to do that.
Sanders also made the case that Social Security, with a $2.5 trillion surplus today, can pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for at least 25 years. A recent report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Social Security is in even better financial shape and can pay all promised benefits until 2038.
Sanders last Wednesday introduced legislation with nine cosponsors to strengthen Social Security by applying the payroll tax that most Americans already pay to those with annual incomes above $250,000. The idea was backed by Obama during his 2008 campaign for the White House, Sanders noted. He said making the wealthy pay as much of their incomes into Social Security as almost all other Americans would provide enough revenue to pay Social Security benefits for 75 years.