Clinton Resorts to Dishonest Smears Against Obama on Social Security Taxes

Since being challenged by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has increasingly resorted to dishonest attacks to attempt to revive her campaign. Talking Points Memo has posted a copy of a dishonest mailing being sent out by the Clinton campaign. Steve Benen reviews the mailer and finds it is neither honest or fair.

The Clinton attack is based upon distorting what Obama has proposed regarding Social Security. While Obama has discussed increasing the cap, he has not advocated eliminating the cap. His proposal does not affect anyone making under $97,000 per year. Obama’s proposal would only affect those making over either $200,000 or $250,000 as he is also discussing exempting those making less from the increase.

Besides being dishonest in distorting Obama’s position, Clinton’s attack is dishonest as she has also discussed a similar increase in the cap. Rather than providing specific proposals, Clinton generally talks of referring Social Security to a commission after the election. This is a rather transparent attempt to have it both ways. This allows her to attack the proposals of her opponents while trying to avoid making specific policy recommendations which others could be critical of.

In looking at the discussion around the blogosphere I have also noticed that some liberal bloggers fail to understand the reason for having a cap. Social Security only considers income up to $97,000 per year in determining benefits and therefore Social Security taxes are limited to the portion of one’s income the program affects (with these numbers indexed annually). It is not unfair for someone making $200,000 to only pay Social Security taxes on the first $97,000 if only this income is considered in future benefits.

There are also political dangers in simply raising the cap. If the plan were to tax us on $200,000 of income but continue the same limits on benefits, Social Security would be become a poor deal financially, further increasing the desire of those making over $100,000 to privatize or eliminate the program. For Social Security to continue to receive wide spread support, it is necessary that people regardless of income see the program as being beneficial to them. By limiting the tax increase to those making over $200,000 or $250,000, Obama’s plan minimizes the number of people who would be taxed on income which the program will not consider in calculating benefits.

There are arguments for and against using an increase in the cap to provide additional revenue for Social Security. Regardless of the merits of the plan, the tax increase would not be anything like Clinton’s mailer claims, and the plan does not differ from what Hillary Clinton has also been considering.