Will the election affect Social Security?

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Trump And Clinton On Social Security


More than a decade ago, George W. Bush made waves with his plan to allow younger workers to save a portion of their Social Security money in personal retirement accounts. The proposal was decried by some as an attack on the system, and then-President Bush's approval rating sank as he toured the country promoting the idea.

The plan was eventually abandoned, and that marked the last time a major overhaul of the Social Security system was attempted. However, politicians have continued to look for ways to shore up the program which could, under the current funding model, run out of cash in less than 20 years.

See: 12 Ways to Ensure You Don't Run Out of Money in Retirement

"From 2009 to 2013, almost all the talk was about how much are we going to cut," says Eric Kingson, a professor of social work at Syracuse University and co-founder of the organization Social Security Works. "No one was saying to expand."

However, political observers say the tide is shifting with both major presidential candidates in 2016 pledging not to cut Social Security and one proposing a small expansion. Details are slim at the moment, but that could change heading into the fall.

"Both campaigns are still in the process of figuring out what they want to say," notes Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington. "Perhaps as we get into the debates there will be more discussion."

For now, here's what we know about the major party candidates' plans for Social Security.

Clinton Embraces Expansion

The 2016 Democratic Party Platform calls for the expansion of Social Security, a position shared by the party candidate, Hillary Clinton. According to some, this embrace of a Social Security expansion has been a relatively recent development. "Democrats, frankly, ran very tepid on Social Security [in the past]," Kingson says. "They haven't, until very recently, championed Social Security."

SEE MORE: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC

23 PHOTOS
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
See Gallery
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine on the trail since the DNC
NEW YORK, NY- Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to journalists after meeting national security experts for a National Security Working Session at the New York Historical Society Library in Manhattan, New York on Friday September 9, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) greets actress Laverne Cox during he LGBT for Hillary Gala at Cipriani Club on September 9, 2016 in New York City. Hillary Clinton is attending fundraisers and in New York City. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
WHITE PLAINS, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the Press Corp on the airport tarmac in front of her campaign plane before flying off on a day of campaigning in White Plains, New York on Thursday September 8, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, at the Baptist National Convention at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo. (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images)
New York, NY - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton participates in a NBC/MSNBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander in Chief Forum in midtown Manhattan in New York, New York on Wednesday September 7, 2016. Hosted by Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 06: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her picture taken with a supporter during a voter registration rally at the University of South Florida on September 6, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. Hillary Clinton is campaigning in Florida. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is on a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 05: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets a supporter during a campaign rally at Luke Easter Park on September 5, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton is kicking off a Labor Day campaign swing to Ohio and Iowa on a new campaign plane large enough to accommodate her traveling press corp. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, speaks at a campaign event during The American Legion National Convention at the Duke Energy Convention Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016. Clinton told a veterans group that U.S. leadership is vital to the world and, drawing a contrast with Republican Donald Trump, said that means the White House is no place for a leader who insults allies or threatens to shrink from that role. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 30: Democratic nominee for Vice President Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., holds a campaign rally at the Boys & Girls Club in Lancaster, Pa., on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EDT and features a diverse lineup of guests that includes celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Monday, August 22 included Presidential Nominee and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and John Krasinski ('The Hollars'). (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) HILLARY CLINTON, JIMMY KIMMEL
MANHATTAN, NY - AUGUST 18: U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton meets with law enforcement experts at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, NY, on August 18, 2016. (Photo by Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - AUGUST 17: Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton speaks to supporters during a Hillary for America rally at John Marshall High School on August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tours John Marshall High School August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at the school. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH-August 17: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at Cleveland Hopkins Airport August 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. Clinton was scheduled to speak at a rally at John Marshall High School. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 15: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden conduct a campaign rally at Riverfront Sports in Scranton, Pa., August 15, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Scranton, PA - AUGUST 15: Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton greets supporters after holding a rally with Vice President Joe Biden at Riverfront Sports athletic facility on August 15, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours Futuramic Tool & Engineering, before delivering an economic speech and job creation, in Detroit, Michigan on Thursday August 11, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
KISSIMMEE, FL - AUGUST 08: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton stands with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) as she attends a campaign rally at the Exhibition Hall in Kissimmee, Florida on August 8, 2016. Clinton continues to campaign to become the President of the United States. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tours a small business, Mojave Electric, in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday August 4, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
RICHMOND, VA - AUGUST 01: Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) poses for photos with supporters during a campaign event August 1, 2016 in Richmond, Virginia. Kaine returns to campaign in a homecoming rally after he was picked to be the running mate of Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - On the third day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, and Anne Holton, aboard the campaign bus in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday July 31, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - On the second day of a bus tour through Pennsylvania and Ohio, Democratic Nominee for President of the United States former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton along with running mate Senator Tim Kaine, Anne Holton, and President Bill Clinton, speak to and meet Pennsylvania voters during a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday, July 30, 2016. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Kingson, a Democrat, credits Bernie Sanders for that shift. He says that while Clinton had previously discussed a "balanced solution" to Social Security funding – something Kingson argues is code for cuts to the system – she now promotes modest increases in benefits for widows and women who have served as caregivers. What's more, her official position includes taxing income above the current Social Security cap to bring more money into the program.

​​​​While these positions don't go as far the reforms proposed by Sanders, who wanted to increase benefits for nearly everyone as well as change how cost-of-living increases are calculated, Clinton's proposal may be enough to solidify her support with the party base. "She's very much in line with the Democratic platform," says Lauren Wright, a political scientist and author of "On Behalf of the President." "Democrats are more cohesive than Republicans at this point."

​​​​Her support of a program expansion could also have an impact on undecided voters. "If Hillary Clinton does emphasize Social Security, that might be an opportunity to win over some older voters," Farnsworth says.

See: Answers to 7 Burning Tax Questions

Trump Breaks from the GOP Platform

While Democrats propose expanding the program and taxing wealthy individuals to do so, the 2016 Republican Party Platform takes a different approach. It says all options to preserve Social Security should be explored. The only thing the platform takes off the table is a tax increase. Instead, the "power of markets to create wealth" should be relied upon to secure the future of the system.

Although the party has traditionally focused on a need to overhaul the system, the issue doesn't seem to be getting much play this year from Republican nominee Donald Trump. "Generally, it's the Republicans who say there is a [Social Security] crisis," says Joseph M. Schwartz, professor of political science at Temple University. "It's part of Trump's campaign, but it's not a big part."

SEE MORE: Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC

22 PHOTOS
Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
See Gallery
Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the campaign trail since the RNC
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for a rally at Duplin County Events Center in Kenansville, North Carolina on September 20, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
ESTERO, FL - SEPTEMBER 19: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Germain Arena on September 19, 2016 in Estero, Florida. Trump is locked in a tight race against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in Florida as the November 8th election nears. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the JetCenters of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Colorado on September 17, 2016. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0534 -- Pictured: (l-r) Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump during an interview with host Jimmy Fallon on September 15, 2016 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at the Bethel United Methedoist Church on September 14, 2016 in Flint, Michigan. / AFP / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 13: U.S. Republican vice presidental nominee Gov. Mike Pence addresses a news conference with House GOP leaders following a conference at Republican headquaters on Capitol Hill September 13, 2016 in Washington, DC. When asked about former vice presidential candidate Speaker Paul Ryan's reluctance to endorse presidential candidate Donald Trump, Pence said that the House Republicans and the campaign agree on a plan for America. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, greets attendees after speaking at a campaign event in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. Any path Trump might take to the presidency inevitably leads through the Rust Belt and industrial Midwest the places the Republican nominee describes as 'rusting and rotting' war zones of manufacturing decline. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and Executive Managing Director, North America for BGC, Daniel LaVecchia attend Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
AKRON, OH - AUGUST 22: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the James A. Rhodes Arena on August 22, 2016 in Akron, Ohio. Trump currently trails Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Ohio, a state which is critical to his election bid. (Photo by Angelo Merendino/Getty Images)
FREDERICKSBURG, VA - AUGUST 20: GOP nominee Donald Trump holds a rally in Fredricksburg, VA on August 20, 2016 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)
US Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters at the Summit Sports and Ice Complex on August 19, 2016 in Diamondale, Michigan. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, pauses while speaking during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, speaks during a campaign rally at the Erie Insurance Arena in Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016. Two days after Trump said that President Barack Obama had founded Islamic State, and a day after he insisted that he meant what he said, the Republican presidential nominee reversed himself on Friday and claimed the statement was nothing more than sarcasm. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg via Getty Images
SUNRISE, FL - AUGUST 10: Republican presidential candidate Donald J.Trump addresses the audience during a campaign event at BB&T Center on August 10th, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)
WILMINGTON, NC - AUGUST 9: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with supporters during a campaign event at Trask Coliseum on August 9, 2016 in Wilmington, North Carolina. This was TrumpÃs first visit to Southeastern North Carolina since he entered the presidential race. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, is seen on a monitor speaking during an event to discuss his economic plans at the Detroit Economic Club in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Monday, Aug. 8, 2016. Trump is promising the biggest overhaul to the personal income-tax code since Ronald Reagan, as well as a deep cut in the corporate tax rate. He's also pledging to end excessive regulation and lift restrictions on the nation's energy producers. Photographer: Sean Proctor/Bloomberg via Getty Images
PORTLAND, ME - AUGUST 4: Presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with Maine Gov. Paul LePage being introduced at a rally in Merrill Auditorium on Thursday, August 4, 2016. (Photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO - JULY 29: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waves to supporters after his speech at the Gallogly Event Center on the campus of the University of Colorado on July 29, 2016 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images)
SCRANTON, PA - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters on July 27, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Trump spoke at the Lackawanna College Student Union Gymnasium. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
DORAL, FL - JULY 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a press conference at Trump National Doral on July 27, 2016 in Doral, Florida. Trump spoke about the Democratic Convention and called on Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted e-mails. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, waves to the crowd after addressing the 117th annual VFW National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday, July 26, 2016. (David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - JULY 26: Republican vice presidential candidate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump looks on at the 117th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States as veterans strive for a photo at the Charlotte Convention Center on July 26, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. One day after Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton faced the same group, Trump promised a revision to health care for veterans. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Trump's official website, as of this writing, doesn't include a specific section on Social Security policy. The candidate told AARP he would make the program financially sound by ensuring the economy was robust, something he says can be accomplished through a combination of tax cuts, immigration reform and reducing government waste.

See: 11 Stocks That Donald Trump Loves

For some, that seems to be a thin answer to the Social Security funding shortfall. "Donald Trump has avoided the issue," Wright says. "He diverges considerably from the GOP platform." But others argue this may be the most logical approach for a candidate who is working to bring together a divided party base. "He's not in a position to put up a big government solution like what's been put up by Hillary Clinton," Farnsworth says.

Congress, Other Issues to Play a Role

Of course, presidential candidates can promise anything they like, but proclamations on the campaign trail don't always translate into real policy changes, as former President Bush discovered.

A bigger factor in the fate of Social Security may lie with those running down the ticket in Senate and House races. Currently, both chambers are controlled by Republican majorities, although some election observers predict the Senate may flip to the Democrats after the election.

However, even if that were the case, Clinton would likely face staunch opposition in the House to any proposal that includes an expanded Social Security tax. Trump may also find himself at odds with Republican House leadership if he hopes to maintain the status quo, especially since some in Congress, such as Speaker Paul Ryan, have indicated their support for reforming the system. Regardless of who wins, "it seems like Social Security gridlock is what we'll see," Farnsworth says.

The future of Social Security may be also be affected by other policies and initiatives pursued by the presidential candidates. For example, Schwartz notes one of the major structural challenges to the system is the ratio of workers to beneficiaries. Bringing more workers into the system – whether that be through adding currently exempt government workers or legalizing undocumented workers – could result in a much-needed influx of cash.

"If you had a path to citizenship, that would do a lot to shore up the system," Schwartz says.

Read Full Story

People are Reading