On June 1, 2016, President Barack Obama called for the further expansion of the Social Security program, particularly to support retirees. Saying that “fewer and fewer people have pensions they can really count on,” Obama said that officials should work for the program’s greater “long-term health” and make it more “generous” for “today’s retirees and future generations.” He then suggested that bigger tax contributions from higher-income Americans – including himself – could make this expansion possible. Government welfare, particularly in healthcare, has been one of the most contentious issues in the outgoing President’s tenure. Obama’s statements figure to be a “game-changer” in the race to replace him, says Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times. According to Hiltzik:
Is Obama’s pitch a political statement? Of course it is. But nothing could set Democrats and Republicans apart for voters in this election year than turning the national debate over Social Security away from how to cut benefits and toward how to make the program more relevant to more workers and their families.
Obama’s views align with progressive stances within the Democratic Party, giving the liberals a boost heading into the October elections. Proponents of improved social security include the party’s presidential nominee candidates, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. However, Sanders proposes to bolster general benefits and a higher minimum for retirees, while Clinton emphasizes more benefits particularly for survivors and for women in caregiving professions. It’s unknown whether Obama will further specify what he envisions for the program – and whether his idea of expansion will also include changes to disability social security. Still, the public could expect a clearer picture in the coming months. As Jared Bernstein notes in The Washington Post, Obama has shown his hand in such a way that his successor will need to address the program’s development. Moreover, expansion isn’t necessarily something that rests only in Democrats’ hands – the presumptive Republican Party nominee, Donald Trump, has also voiced opposition to cutting any benefits. With improvements to welfare seemingly on the horizon, it may be prudent for employers, healthcare institutions, and the like to encourage their workers and patients to assess their retirement plan as well as social security disability eligibility. Sources President Barack Obama Backs Expanding Social Security, Huffington Post For the first time, President Obama leans into Social Security expansion, The Washington Post Obama’s call for expanding Social Security could be a game-changer, The Los Angeles Times