Buttigieg may have edge; unveils plan to ‘protect Social Security forever’ for older Americans

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(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has not embraced the left’s “Medicare-for-all” plans but he does have a plan of his own for older Americans.

The the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, unveiled a proposed plan to “promote dignity and security in retirement” that would also “protect Social Security forever” by imposing a payroll tax on the wealthiest Americans.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

“I am determined to usher in a new era for older Americans, one that empowers them to age and retire with dignity,” Buttigieg said in a statement announcing the detailed retirement plan, which establishes the Long-Term Care America program providing $90 per day to those over 65 years old.

The 19-page retirement plan proposes changes to Social Security, increasing benefits and proposing a system to keep it solvent for years, while also preserving the private health-care plan, Medicare Advantage, for those who wish to keep it.

The Democrat recounted how his father passed away in January after an undisclosed illness following hospitalization last year.

“I’ll always remember the social worker patiently explaining to my mom that her best course of action to cover Dad’s care might be for our family to spend everything we had until we were asset-poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. I remember thinking, ‘Is that how this works in America?”” Buttigieg said in the statement.

His Long-Term America plan would create a “a historic and free long-term care program to protect people over age 65,” noting that over 11 million people currently 65 and older “will receive benefits from the program throughout their lifetime.”

“There’s no dignity in retirement without being able to choose the health-care plan that’s right for you,” the self-described progressive said.

He also plans to “revitalize the private long-term care insurance market” by giving caregivers more support through an increase in the minimum wage to a $15 an hour, expanding training programs, and access to services and support while also ensuring home-care workers can unionize.

The plan would also provide at-home caretakers with “12 weeks of paid family leave, providing credit toward Social Security for family and other unpaid caregivers, and improving support by funding and training long-term care navigators and creating community-based service hubs.”

At-home, unpaid caregivers would be recognized by the Social Security administration as doing work, thus earning a benefits credit.

Americans earning over $250,000 a year would face an increased tax to secure Social Security’s long-term solvency in the 2020 hopeful’s proposal which also calls for a public-option 401(k) “with low fees and smart investment options so that all workers have the opportunity to supplement their Social Security benefits if they choose with employer contributions,” which will “expand retirement savings among the 62 million workers locked out of tax-preferred retirement savings, and enable the typical worker to retire with over $500,000.”

“Protecting and expanding the promise of Social Security is the key way to promote financial security for America’s retirees,” the plan states.

Though Buttigieg’s proposal was not clear on how much the changes will cost, the plan was seen by a Moody’s Analytics chief economist as one that would keep Social Security solvent through 2051 and would reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over a decade.

“The reforms you have proposed will put the Social Security system on sounder financial ground, extending its solvency by more than 30 years into the middle of this century,” Dr. Mark Zandi wrote to the Democratic candidate, according to Fox News. “More reforms will eventually be needed, but your reforms address the system’s financial problem, which will be a relief to a financially precious low and middle-income Americans.”

Buttigieg — who is beginning to flex strong poll numbers — has not endorsed the government-funded plans proposed by some of his Democratic rivals, but his latest proposal had some similarities to the Social Security Expansion Act introduced in February by his opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., with support from Sens. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Cory Booker, D-N.J.

President Trump has not disclosed a specific plan for aging Americans in his reelection campaign, but he promised in 2016 not to touch Social Security.

“The key to preserving Social Security and other programs that benefit AARP members is to have an economy that is robust and growing,” Trump said in a 2016 statement to the AARP. “For too long Americans have had a great deal of uncertainty in their lives, and the reforms I will bring to D.C. will remove that uncertainty and will restore confidence in the American economy.”

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Frieda Powers

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