U. S. Senator Liz Warren (D-Massachusetts) could have just won the 2020 Presidential election, and the media did not notice.
Warren wants to increase all Social Security benefits by $200 a month or $2,400 a year. To clarify, Warren made the proposal in a little-noticed 12 September 2019 Medium Post she entitles “My Plan to Expand Social Security.”
I suspect most pundits and journalists will ignore Warren’s promise but it will attract a lot of attention on Main Street. Instead, I think many pundits and journalists will mock Warren’s Social Security raise, which plays right into her hands. To explain, Warren wants voters to see her as the heroic populist standing up for the little people whom the elitists are ridiculing.
Warren’s proposal is no laughing matter. Instead, it’s a brilliant strategic move. In fact, I think Warren could attract tens of millions of supporters; dominate the Democratic primaries; win dozens of Electoral College votes, and capture the White House on a $200 a month Social Security raise.
Why Voters will Like Warren’s Plan to Expand Social Security
The New York pundit class will laugh at Warren’s proposal, because $200 a month sounds like nothing to them. However, to tens of millions of seniors; and Americans facing retirement, Warren’s Social Security increase could be a godsend.
To explain, the average monthly Social Security benefit was $1,353.68 in July 2019, The Social Security Administration estimates. In addition, the average Social Security Retirement benefit was $1,425.46 a month in July 2019.
Under these circumstances, I estimate the average Social Security recipient receives $16,244.16 a year. In addition, the average retired Social Security recipient receives $17,105.16 a year.
To people struggling to live on $17,105.16 a year; and those facing retirement with nothing but Social Security, Warren’s proposal will sound great. Importantly, there are tens of millions of such people in American today.
Why Expanding Social Security is the Key to the White House
The SSA estimates 68.573 million Americans received Social Security in July 2019. Plus 53.574 million Americans receive Social Security’s Old and Survival Insurance payments.
Warren is making a direct appeal to each of those people. In addition, Warren is appealing to white Americans with her plan. To explain, the Pew Research Center estimates the average age for White Americans is 58.
Therefore, most white Americans are retired, or thinking about retirement. Plus, a lot of those people are facing retirement with no money. Frighteningly, 47% of Americans between 53 and 64 had no money in individual retirement accounts, The 2013 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finance estimates.
To add to the fears, Big Short speculator Mike Burry thinks the Index Funds many IRAs invest in are a bubble that could soon collapse. Under circumstances, Social Security will be the only thing on many voters’ minds.
Why Social Security will be the Decisive Issue in 2020
Under these circumstances, Social Security will be the main issue for large numbers of voters in the states that could elect the next president.
The Washington Post famously claims 77,744 voters three states elected Donald J. Trump (R-New York) president in 2016. Those states are Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Furthermore, many observers believe those states’ electoral votes will be critical for Trump in 2020.
The WorldAtlas estimates 16.69% of Pennsylvania’s population of 12.82 million; or 2.1362 million people, are over 65. Plus 15.44% of Michigan’s population of 9.95 million; or 1.54 million voters, are over 65. Meanwhile, 15.21% of Wisconsin’s population of 5.82 million; or 885,222 people, are over 65. The population estimates come from US Population 2019.
Thus, over 15% of the population of the most important battleground states for 2020 is over 65. In addition, 19.06% of the population of the largest battleground state Florida; or 4.09 million people, are over 65 million.
To elaborate I estimate Trump carried Florida by 112,191 votes, Michigan by 10,704 votes, and Wisconsin by 22,748 votes. I based I base these numbers on CNN’s estimates of the 2016 election results.
Given those numbers I think all Warren needs to win those states is for 5% to 10% of seniors to change their votes. With the low current Social Security payments, I think Warren’s $200 a month raise could sway those voters.
Hence, Trump’s estimate of Warren as the biggest threat to him in the 2020 Democratic primary field is correct. In fact, Trump saw Warren coming and went after her back in 2017.
How Andrew Yang can defeat Warren and Trump
However, there is one candidate who can trounce Warren on the Social Security issue. That candidate is Andrew Yang (D-New York).
To explain, Yang’s signature issue is the Freedom Dividend, a $1,000 a month basic income Uncle Sam will pay to all Americans over 18. Originally, the Freedom Dividend ended at 65, and Yang planned to deduct it from Social Security.
However, Yang has quietly changed the Freedom Dividend so people over 65 and all Social Security recipients could collect it. Thus, Yang can tell seniors, “I will raise your Social Security by $1,000 a month or $12,000 a year.”
My suspicion is political consultants told Yang, “if you don’t give the Freedom Dividend to Seniors you will lose. However, if you add the Dividend to Social Security payments, you’ll be unbeatable.” Yang appears to have listened, so he is a direct threat to Warren.
Can Yang Win?
Tellingly, Emerson Polling estimates Yang out polls established politicians; including Benito O’Rourke (D-Texas), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-Indiana), and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), in the Democratic primary contest. In detail, Emerson estimates Yang is the fifth most popular Democratic presidential contender with the support of 4% of Democrats in August 2019.
Meanwhile, Emerson estimates Warren is third in the Democratic primary contest with 15% of the support. Currently, Warren trails U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) who has 24% of the support, and former Vice President Joe Biden (D-Delaware) who has 31% of the support.
I suspect, Warren thinks she can use the Social Security issue to get enough votes to beat Sanders and Biden. Plus, she needs to head off Yang whose dark horse run is gaining steam fast. For instance, some seasoned politicians; including former San Francisco Mayor and former California House Speaker Willie Brown (D), now take Yang seriously.
Interestingly, data analysis from SEMrush estimates the number of Google searches for Yang grew by 191% between April and September 2019, The Washington Examiner claims. In addition, people are 1.4 times as likely to Tweet about Yang than Biden, SEMrush claims.
Will the Election Become a Social Security Raising Contest?
Therefore, Warren could hope offering voters more cash in the form of a Social Security increase could attract more attention. If Warren wants to win, she will need to get voters’ eyeballs away from Yang.
If Warren’s strategy works, it could turn the Democracy primary into a contest of who can offer the biggest Social Security raise. Consequently, Sanders, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California), or Biden, for example, could counter Warren with a $400 a month Social Security raise.
In retaliation, Warren could offer a $500 a month Social Security increase. That could backfire because Warren will have to explain how she will pay for the increase.
Commendably, Team Warren takes the risk of proposing several tax increases to pay for the Social Security raise on Medium. However, most of the tax increases Warren proposes will only cover high-income individuals. Additionally, Yang promotes a Value-Added Tax (VAT) as the best means of paying for his Freedom Dividend.
Hence, politics are transforming, presidential candidates are publicly discussing tax increases. Such open discussion of tax increases would have been unthinkable in 2016.
President Trump’s Social Security Dilemma
Social Security expansion is problematic for President Trump because it could divide Republicans.
Expanding Social Security will be popular with Trump’s base. In 2016, Trump received the votes of 52% of people over 45, the Roper Center estimates. In addition, Data for Progress estimates 60% of whites over 60 voted for Trump in 2016.
Trump’s allies in the U.S. Senate; however, are diehard conservatives and libertarians who hate Social Security and want to kill it. For instance, no Congressional Republicans support the Social Security 2100 Act; which offers a modest benefit increase, Forbes contributor Nancy Altman claims.
Notably, GOP U.S. Senators like John Barrasso (R-Wyoming) and John Thune (R-South Dakota) are openly discussing Social Security cuts, Salon reports. I can not picture such men signing off on a Social Security increase.
Moreover, Trump cannot fight Republican Social Security cut schemes or propose an increase without triggering a nasty fight with libertarian fanatics like billionaire Charles Koch. Koch’s political network stopped Trump’s plan for a $1 trillion border-adjustment tax (BAT) in 2017, Medium writer Christopher Leonard speculates.
Why Social Security means Trouble for Trump
I imagine Trump would love to sign a Social Security increase; an act that could ensure his reelection. Instead, the President has to pay unenthusiastic lip service to Republican plans to cut Social Security.
The President rarely discusses Social Security publicly, because he fears scaring off his most loyal voters, or offending his Congressional allies. Yet Warren could force Trump to talk about Social Security year by proposing an increase.
To explain, Democrats could spin any criticism of a Social Security increase as an attack on Social Security – and by inference seniors. Plus, Democrats could cite any Trump rhetoric against a Social Security increase as “evidence” the President is planning a Social Security cut.
Consequently, Warren or Yang could force Trump to choose between attracting voters, or defending the unpopular party line. Taking sides on Social Security could really hurt Trump in the Republican primaries; where he faces challenges from two fiscal conservatives, former Massachusetts Governor William Weld and former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.
Social Security Shows Warren’s Strategic Brilliance
In the final analysis, I think Warren’s endgame is to force Trump into a battle over Social Security; which could drive away much of his base, while splitting the Grand Old Party (GOP).
Only time will if the Donald can avoid that trap. However, I suspect Trump knows of the Social Security trap and is working to avoid it.
If Warren can make Social Security her issue, and Social Security the definitive issue of 2020. I think she will win both the Democratic primaries and the general election. Thus, Liz Warren is a brilliant strategist with what looks like a winning game plan.. Trump and other Democrats will have a difficult time countering her Social Security offensive.
Originally published at https://marketmadhouse.com on September 16, 2019.