News & Politics

Bernie Sanders Sends a Special Message to Millionaires on Valentine's Day

It's that time of the year when millionaires get to stop contributing to Social Security.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

Bernie Sanders has a special Valentine’s Day message for the 1 percent. On Wednesday, Sanders tweeted “Happy Valentine's day to all the millionaires who will not have to pay into Social Security for the rest of the year. Let's lift the cap and end this absurdity.” Accompanying the tweet was a video educating the public about “Millionaires Valentine’s Day,” which this year falls on February 16.

Because of an arbitrary cap, Americans earning million-dollar salaries or higher only have to pay Social Security taxes up to $128,000, which they’re able to pay off just a few weeks into each new year—47 days after January 1 to be precise, otherwise known as Millionaires Valentine’s Day.

The taxable amount in 2018 is actually $128,400, but most individuals won’t earn this amount, as the Center for Economic and Policy Research reported. CEPR’s Kevin Cashman wrote of the present system that, “the burden of Social Security taxes falls more heavily on those who make less money.”

“What is it, some weird Valentine’s Day gift to rich people?” Lawrence Benenson, principal of the Benenson Capital Company and progressive advocate, asks in the video.

The video, which includes cameos from Benenson and other “patriotic millionaires” including Eric Schoenberg, chairman of Campus Works Inc., calls attention to this special day, and to the special treatment millionaires get when it comes to contributing to Social Security. 

According to the video, investment income, which is the source of many millionaires’ wealth, is not subject to Social Security taxes.

Sanders’ Valentine-themed video echoes his previous calls to prioritize the future of Social Security and adjust the payroll tax cap, including with previously introduced legislation that would increase benefits while increasing taxes for the wealthy.  

Some have expressed concerns over the solvency of Social Security. But a 2017 report from CEPR notes that the Social Security Trust Fund, which currently totals $2.8 trillion, “is enough to pay full benefits to retirees through 2034. At that point, the fund will still be able to pay just under 80 percent of full benefits for the next 75 years.” According to the Social Security Administration, Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act would prolong that point until 2078.

Sanders wasn’t the only one to use Twitter this week to call out millionaires for taking advantage of the tax cap. Social Security Works also tweeted out the video, taking note of the additional benefits millionaires earned through the recent Republican tax bill:

Nancy Altman, the president of Social Security Works, also commented on the political moment.

"If minimum wage workers contribute on all their earnings, as they do, millionaires and billionaires should too,” Altman said via email. “The wealthiest among us have, for decades, received the lion's share of the nation's income and wealth. Republicans just gave them an enormous tax giveaway. It is well past time that they contribute their fair share to our Social Security system. When they do, we will be able to expand Social Security for all of us."

Watch the video.

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Emily C. Bell is a news writer at AlterNet.