2008 Democratic primary debate in Philadelphia, April 16, 2008: on Social Security


Barack Obama: Raise $97K cap on payroll tax exempting earnings under $250K

CLINTON: I’m certainly against one of Senator Obama’s ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are educators, police officers, firefighters and the like.

OBAMA: What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don’t have to pay beyond $97,000 a year. Now most firefighters & teachers, they’re not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6% of the population does. And I’ve also said that I’d be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

Q: But that’s a tax on people under $250,000.

OBAMA: That’s why I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between. This is an option that I would strongly consider, because the alternatives, like raising the retirement age, or cutting benefits, or raising the payroll tax on everybody, including people making less than $97,000 a year--those are not good policy options

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

Barack Obama: Must capture new revenue; no new Social Security Comission

OBAMA: We’re going to have to capture some revenue in order to stabilize the Social Security system. You can’t get something for nothing. And if we care about Social Security, which I do, and if we are firm in our commitment to make sure that it’s going to be there for the next generation, and not just for our generation, then we have an obligation to figure out how to stabilize the system. I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we’re going to do that and not just say that we’re going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

CLINTON: With all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security was 1983. President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you’ve got to get Republicans and Democrats together. That’s what I will do.

OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, and also raised the payroll tax. So Sen. Clinton can’t have it both ways.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

Hillary Clinton: No lifting cap on payroll tax; that taxes middle class

Q: Would you take a pledge of no tax increases on people under $250,000?

OBAMA: I not only have pledged not to raise their taxes, I would cut their taxes. We are going to offset the payroll tax, the most regressive of our taxes.

CLINTON: I don’t want to raise taxes on anybody. I’m certainly against one of Senator Obama’s ideas, which is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, because that would impose additional taxes on people who are educators, police officers, firefighters and the like.

OBAMA: What I have proposed is that we raise the cap on the payroll tax, because right now millionaires and billionaires don’t have to pay beyond $97,000 a year. Now most firefighters & teachers, they’re not making over $100,000 a year. In fact, only 6% of the population does. And I’ve also said that I’d be willing to look at exempting people who are making slightly above that.

Q: But that’s a tax on people under $250,000.

OBAMA: That’s why I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

Hillary Clinton: Bipartisan commission, like in 1983, to address crisis

OBAMA: [to Clinton]: I think we should be honest in presenting our ideas in terms of how we’re going to stabilize the Social Security system and not just say that we’re going to form a commission and try to solve the problem some other way.

CLINTON: I am totally committed to making sure Social Security is solvent. You’ve got to begin to reign in the budget, pay as you go, to try to replenish our Social Security Trust Fund. And with all due respect, the last time we had a crisis in Social Security wa 1983. Pres. Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill came up with a commission. That was the best and smartest way, because you’ve got to get Republicans and Democrats together. That’s what I will do. And I will say, #1, don’t cut benefits on current beneficiaries they’re already having a hard enough time. And #2, do not impose additional tax burdens on middle-class families.

OBAMA: That commission raised the retirement age, and also raised the payroll tax. So Sen. Clinton can’t have it both ways.

Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008

Hillary Clinton: FactCheck: No, teachers & police won’t pay if cap over $102K

Clinton exaggerated when she said that lifting the cap on wages that are subject to the Social Security tax “would impose additional taxes on people who are, you know, educators here in the Philadelphia area or in the suburbs, police officers, firefighters and the like.”

In fact, only individuals earning more than $102,000 a year would be affected. A spokesman for the union representing Philadelphia’s public school teachers tells FactCheck.org, “There are some affluent suburban districts where only the most senior educators with a master’s degree and probably 25 or more years of experience whose salaries might approach 100k. However, I think that’s a very small number overall.“

As for Philadelphia police officers, an officer would have to work more than 1,200 hours of overtime in a year to push even the highest base salary above $102,000.

The Clinton campaign pointed to budget figures showing that principals of Philadelphia’s large high schools earn $111,500 on average.

Source: FactCheck.org analysis of 2008 Philadelphia primary debate Apr 16, 2008

  • The above quotations are from 2008 Democratic primary debate in Philadelphia, April 16, 2008 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary..
  • Click here for definitions & background information on Social Security.
  • Click here for other issues (main summary page).
  • Click here for more quotes by Barack Obama on Social Security.
  • Click here for more quotes by Hillary Clinton on Social Security.
Candidates and political leaders on Social Security:
Incoming Obama Administration:
Pres.:Sen.Barack Obama
V.P.:Sen.Joe Biden
State:Hillary Clinton
Staff:Rahm Emanuel
Treas.:Tim Geithner
DoD:Robert Gates
A.G.:Eric Holder
DHS:Janet Napolitano
DoC:Bill Richardson
Outgoing Bush Administration:
Pres.:George Bush
V.P.:Dick Cheney
A.G.:John Ashcroft(2005)
DEA:Asa Hutchinson(2005)
USDA:Mike Johanns(2007)
EPA:Mike Leavitt
HUD:Mel Martinez(2003)
State:Colin Powell(2005)
State:Condoleezza Rice
HHS:Tommy Thompson(2005)
2008 Presidential contenders:
AIP: Frank McEnulty
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
GOP: Sen.John McCain
GOP VP: Gov.Sarah Palin
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Independent: Ralph Nader
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
NAIP: Amb.Alan Keyes
Socialist: Brian Moore
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