WASHINGTON — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said at a town hall meeting the minimum wage should be raised to $15 per hour and advocated for expanding Social Security benefits.
“If one person is making $18 million and another person is making $118,000 a year, who pays more into Social Security? Neither, they’re paying the same because there is a cap upon which after you, at a certain level, you don’t pay anything more and that level is about $118,000,” Sanders said at the meeting in Washington.
“If you lift that cap, and you don’t have to start at $119,000, you can start at $250,000. If you just do that, Social Security will be solvent until the year 2065 and we can increase benefits – that’s part of the legislation I’ve recently introduced,” he added.
Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee and now a presidential candidate, said Social Security would be solvent for another 20 years if the U.S. had the same distribution of wealth today as it did 30 years ago.
“Just because more people would be paying into the Social Security trust fund,” he said. “The major issue is how we deal with the multi-trillion dollar shift of wealth that has disappeared from working families and gone to the top one tenth of one percent, and if we can redistribute that down we will solve many problems.”
Over the last 30 years, Sanders said, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction.
“Our job is to turn that around,” he said.
Addressing his support for a $15 minimum wage, Sanders said, “I’m not going to say that’s a perfect solution” but it is “the direction we should go.”
The White House supports a $10.10 per hour minimum wage.
Sanders told the town hall meeting he expects President Obama to raise the income threshold for overtime pay in the next few months.
“Here’s the deal: you work at McDonalds, you make $28,000 per year, you’re a supervisor of two people flipping hamburgers. Being that supervisor and making more than $23,500, you are not eligible for time and a half so what we have asked the president to do is to raise that number to somewhere around $55,000,” he said. “I believe the president will do something like that in the next couple of months and that would put a lot of money into the pockets of a lot of people.”
Sanders also said his $1 trillion infrastructure bill could help lower the 17 percent youth unemployment rate.
“How do you get jobs for those kids? Well, one way to do it is I introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure rebuilding bill, which would create about 13 million jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges and water systems and waste water plants and levees and dams and airports,” he said. “Think about how America would look when we have people giving us a first-class infrastructure – that’s what we should be thinking about.”
Sanders said the budget introduced by Senate Republicans would not balance the federal budget over 10 years.
“When they talk about deficit spending, these guys are very selective,” he said. “Throwing people off of Medicaid, that’s one way you can do it, that’s what they believe.”
Senate Democrats have criticized the budget proposal for repealing the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under Obamacare.