In a pivotal unscripted moment during his presidency, President Joe Biden showcased his negotiation skills and commitment to the social safety net by defending Social Security. However, some Democrats are calling for him to go even further in order to secure victory in the anticipated tight 2024 election.
Progressive groups and Democratic leaders have been advocating for Biden to endorse a plan that expands Social Security benefits. They argue that this proposal would appeal to a broad electorate that holds Social Security in high regard, particularly seniors who are more likely to vote.
Additionally, with Republicans ruling out cuts to Social Security, Biden could establish himself as a champion of this cherished social insurance program. Alex Lawson, the executive director of Social Security Works, one of the groups advocating for expansion, highlighted the need for more recognition of the Democratic Party’s position on Social Security.
By drawing a clear distinction between the Democrats’ expansion plans and the Republicans’ history of wanting to cut benefits, Lawson believes that the Democrats can strengthen their stance. Biden initially embraced Social Security expansion during the 2020 Democratic primary, proposing increased benefits for low-income retirees and funding through higher taxes on those earning $400,000 or more per year.
However, due to slim congressional majorities, Biden largely abandoned the idea once he took office. Now, progressive groups are urging Biden to revisit the idea, especially since the probable opposing candidate, Donald Trump, has publicly claimed he does not wish to cut entitlement programs (even though he previously supported such policies).
Polling conducted by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Data for Progress and presented to top White House officials and leading Democrats revealed that just 41% of respondents trusted Biden more than Trump to protect Social Security benefits.
Furthermore, more than 4 in 10 doubted that Republican candidates who advocated for benefit cuts or retirement age increases would follow through on those promises if elected.
While Biden officials have shown openness to expanding benefits, they have yet to make a firm commitment. The campaign is still in the early stages of developing a policy platform for 2024.
Campaign spokesperson Ammar Moussa emphasized Biden’s commitment to protecting Social Security and Medicare, highlighting the contrast with MAGA Republicans who have campaigned against these programs.
However, some skeptics within Biden’s circle argue that his message on benefit protection versus Republican cuts is already well-established, and adding a new idea could create confusion.
Moreover, Biden is planning on running on his concrete accomplishments, which may resonate more with voters than aspirational ideas like Social Security expansion.
Democrats have raised concerns about the specific policy details surrounding benefit expansion, including which retirees would receive additional benefits and how the program would be financed.
In addition to Biden’s 2020 proposal, several lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders and Rep. John Larson, have their own long-standing plans for expansion. Progressive groups advocating for Social Security expansion do not have a specific proposal but do argue that taxing the wealthy would be a viable means of financing the benefits.
In conclusion, as Biden prepares for a challenging 2024 election, Democrats are urging him to prioritize Social Security expansion as a way to differentiate himself from Trump. While some within his circle express reservations about adding a new idea to his agenda, progressive groups contend that this proposal will resonate with voters, particularly if framed as a Democratic wedge issue.
The Democrats, however, need to address policy specifics and funding sources before moving forward with the idea.