President Barack Obama’s surprise call to expand Social Security highlights a populist shift in the U.S. political landscape that has been propelled by the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Just five years ago, Obama called for reducing future Social Security benefits — an idea that at the time was in vogue for many Republicans and some Democrats, who treated it as a badge of fiscal responsibility.
No more. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, says Social Security benefits shouldn’t be cut — a departure from other Republican leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. Sanders, as part of his Democratic presidential campaign, has been calling for an expansion of benefits, and the party’s likely nominee, Hillary Clinton, took a similar position earlier this year. Obama joined the chorus on Wednesday.
“It is a much different universe today,” said Warren Gunnels, policy director for the Sanders campaign. “Go back to 2011, when the debate was not whether Social Security would be cut, but how much it would be cut. Now the debate is not whether we’re going to expand Social Security but how much we’ll expand it.”