Sanders goes after Biden on Social Security: A look at their 2020 plans

Both candidates' 2020 campaign plans call for strengthening the popular program

With the first votes of the 2020 primaries just weeks away, debates among the Democratic Party’s frontrunners are heating up, and Social Security has begun to take center stage.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have been clashing over Sanders’ criticisms of Biden’s record on the program.

Sanders has been going after Biden. He said the former vice president has — on numerous occasions — supported making cuts to the popular entitlement program.

In a tweet fired off last week, Sanders said he is proud to have fought to protect and expand Social Security. He linked to an article from The Washington Post on Biden’s history of supporting cuts.



Sanders’ team also put out a fact-checking video, which pointed out the disparities between the two candidates’ records.

The video shows a 1995 speech that Biden gave on the Senate floor where he appeared to brag about the fact that he called for freezing spending on every federal program — including Social Security — many times.

“When I argued that we should freeze Federal spending, I meant Social Security as well. I meant Medicare and Medicaid,” Biden said at the time. “I meant veterans benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the government. And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time.”

As reported by The New York Times, Biden called the video “doctored” over the weekend.

But Sanders appears to have a point about Biden's past history regarding Social Security.

As noted by The Intercept, Biden worked with Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley to call for a freeze on federal spending during the Reagan administration. He called for cuts in 1988. Again in 2007, he said he would consider looking at eligibility for Social Security and Medicare. Even as recently as 2018 he voiced support for going after entitlement programs.

Spokespersons for the Biden and Sanders campaigns did not immediately return FOX Business’ request for comment.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also got in on the action, backing Sanders.

“Bernie Sanders and I established the ‘Expand Social Security Caucus’ in the Senate,” Warren told Politico on Sunday outside a candidate forum in Iowa. “As a senator, Joe Biden had a very different position on Social Security, and I think everyone's records on Social Security are important in this election.”

Records aside, here are both candidates Social Security plans as laid out by their 2020 campaigns:

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic presidential primary debate in Los Angeles last year. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)


Preserve and strengthen Social Security

Biden’s plan proposes strengthening benefits for the most vulnerable older populations, like widows and widowers, lifelong workers with low monthly benefits and other beneficiaries without savings. It would provide a larger benefit to the oldest Americans — or those who have been receiving benefits for at least two decades.

The plan also aims to institute a minimum benefit for lifelong workers, which would be a benefit of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level for those who have worked for at least 30 years. It would raise the monthly payment for widows and widowers by about 20 percent.

Biden also wants to eliminate penalties for teachers and other public sector workers.

In order to bolster the program’s solvency, with trust funds expected to be depleted by 2035, Biden’s plan would ask high-earning Americans to pay higher taxes.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)


Expand Social Security and protect pensions

Sanders advocates for expanding benefits and ensuring that every worker is paid what they are owed for the next 52 years. He would also lift benefits for seniors with incomes of $16,000 or less by $1,300 a year.

The plan aims to increase minimum benefits for low-income workers and bump up the cost-of-living adjustment by creating and tying it to a Consumer Price Index for the elderly.

To pay for his plan, Sanders would raise maximum taxable earnings to $250,000. As of 2020, the cap is $137,700.