In a white paper shared with the Guardian, the former Maryland governor calls for expanding social security benefits and raising the payroll tax used to fund the government retirement program so that all income above $250,000 is taxable. Currently the threshold on earnings subject to the social security tax is set at $118,500. The O’Malley campaign would create a “doughnut hole”, exempting income over $118,500 and below $250,000 from taxation. The overall goal of O’Malley’s plan is to “increase the number of Americans with adequate retirement savings by 50% within two terms in office”.
O’Malley also expresses his support for a number of other progressive goals including the controversial “fiduciary rule” recently introduced by the Department of Labor which requires financial advisers to provide advice “in the best interest of their clients” as well as changing how cost of living adjustments are calculated to provide increased benefits to retirees.
The former Maryland governor is not the only candidate to call for an expansion of social security. The Liberal insurgent Bernie Sanders has introduced a bill in the Senate which would include the same tax increase on income over $250,000 and expand it to capital gains income above $250,000 as well.
In contrast the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has been cautious on the subject. While she has been a steadfast defender of the program as-is, she has yet to stake a specific position on expanding it. Instead Clinton said in a questionnaire to the AFL-CIO merely that she would “enhance it to meet new realities”.
O’Malley’s white paper is part of an effort to stake out distinctive policy ground on the left of the Democratic field as part of his effort to introduce “15 goals to rebuild the American dream”.
Despite building a strong grassroots campaign in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, O’Malley has been mired in the low single digits behind both Clinton and Sanders. The campaign’s goal is that it will somehow be able to use detailed positions to distinguish the Maryland governor from his two main rivals and catapult himself into relevance in the Democratic primary.
National polls – which still include the vice-president, Joe Biden, who has yet to decide on a run – currently have O’Malley at roughly 2% among Democratic primary voters.