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Sean Barney wants the rich to pay for Social Security expansion

Delaware Public Media

Sean Barney, who’s seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for the state’s open U.S. House seat, says he wants to expand Social Security benefits by further taxing the wealthy.

Barney, who came up short in his last bid for state treasurer in 2014, wants to break the cap set on the amount of income that can be taxed for Social Security.

Right now, that’s just under $120,000 a year. Anyone making more than that gets to pocket that extra cash.

Barney says doing so would allow feds to expand the program, giving everyone about an extra $12,000 in benefits and keep Social Security solvent through 2070.

He says closing that loophole ensures fairness for lower and middle class workers who haven’t seen their wages effectively increase in years.

“If you’re a billionaire then, probably within the first weeks of the year, you hit the cap and then everything you earn after that, you don’t have to make the same contribution that your secretary does and I just think that’s wrong,” Barney said.

Income inequality has soared for decades, with the top one percent of Americans accounting for nearly 37 percent of wealth in the country, according to a 2014 New York University study.

That, Barney says, leaves workers at the bottom feeling like they're losing a foothold on the American dream in comparison to the country's richest.

“…while those in the middle who have been working harder and harder to get by have not seen a raise in many, many years. So, I think to disregard that or be blind to that in policy would not be fair to those Americans who are working very hard and not seeing the reward.”

Those who care for a sick family member or raise a child would also be eligible for a credit under the plan.

He also wants to pass an immediate 3.9 percent cost of living increase to seniors and veterans receiving Social Security benefits and then tie the program's annual cost of living formula to one tailored toward the elderly.

Negotiating prescription drug prices for Medicare would also be a top priority for Barney, which he says could save hundreds of billions of dollars.

Any of the five Democrats hoping to replace outgoing Congressman John Carney (D) in Washington will have a difficult landscape to navigate. 

Both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, with a bipartisan backed stalemate allowing little legislation through the process.

Barney says his experience working as an aide to Sen. Tom Carper (D) when both parties expanded Medicare to include prescription drugs in the mid-2000s would help to broker any deal, though the GOP seems to have little appetite to boost entitlement spending.