If Democratic presidential candidates want to get serious about the existential imperative of defeating Donald Trump’s growing authoritarian menace, they need to stop their exotic appeals to left-wing activists and start formulating positions voters actually like. Elizabeth Warren has an idea like this. It might be the best general-election appeal any of the candidates has devised yet: Raise taxes on the rich to pay for an increase in Social Security benefits.
The average Social Security beneficiary gets a paltry $16,248 a year from the program. Warren proposes to increase that by $200 a month, paying for it with a 14.8 percent tax on net investment income for individuals earning more than $250,000 and families earning more than $400,000. Her pay-for would not only cover the costs of new benefits, but bring in enough extra revenue to extend the Social Security Trust Fund by 19 years.
Increasing Social Security benefits? Even more popular. A 2014 survey found 86 percent of Americans agree that current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, and 72 percent agree we should consider raising future Social Security benefits in order to provide a more secure retirement for working Americans. A poll last year found that two thirds of respondents would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would raise Social Security benefits, with just 18 percent saying they’d be less likely.
Social Security has largely disappeared as a first-tier issue since then. Trump promised to protect it, using the issue to distance himself from fellow Republicans. But his budget plan would cut $26 billion from the program over a decade. (As a share of its total cost, that is a pittance, but most Americans think any dollar amount ending in -illion is large. Why not let Trump try to explain that $26 billion is not a lot of money?)
inviting Russian hackers to intervene on his behalf, and any other dirty tricks he can dream up over the next 15 months. Democrats need to treat the task of defeating Trump as the national emergency it is.
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