One of Hillary Clinton's top rivals is putting pressure on her with an ambitious plan that liberals love

Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Friday laid out a plan to expand Social Security, earning praise from progressive activists who have pushed the issue over the past few years.

On Friday, O’Malley unveiled plans to increase the number of Americans with “adequate retirement savings” by 50% over two theoretical terms in office, an ambitious goal that includes reforming Social Security and helping to expand private retirement planning programs.

O’Malley’s rollout put immediate pressure on Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, as progressive groups called on her to endorse expanding the entitlement’s benefits.

Here are the main points of O’Malley’s plan:

  • Increase Social Security benefits. O’Malley proposed increasing minimum Social Security benefits to 125% above the poverty line and raising benefits for low- and minimum-wage workers, who the governor claims currently don’t receive enough benefits and often don’t have any retirement savings at all.
  • Raise the cap on the payroll tax for workers making more than $US250,000 a year. O’Malley claimed that raising the payroll tax — along with raising the minimum wage and enacting immigration reform — will pay for many of his proposed reforms. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has also suggested this idea, which conservatives claim will dramatically damage spending and hinder economic growth, which would in turn lower tax revenues.
  • Expand employer-based retirement plans. Fewer Americans are saving for retirement, as many workplaces have eliminated pension benefits plans. In order to decrease the number of workers without private retirement savings program, O’Malley would “require employers with more than 10 employees to process an automatic employee contribution to an IRA for all employees.” Many Republicans have argued that even if it does help expand benefits, a plan like this would hurt small businesses and overall employment.

O’Malley also said that he would refuse to raise the Social Security retirement age.

Progressive groups immediately embraced the plan.

“It’s great that Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders are both campaigning on this message,” Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

“Social Security hasn’t kept up with the rising cost of living for seniors, so it’s no wonder that expanding Social Security benefits is popular with voters across the political spectrum — Republican, Independent, and Democratic.”

And in a subsequent email blast to more than 1 million members, the group called on Clinton to endorse a similar approach.

“Now is the time to act,” said Jack Hilson, a PCCC organiser, in the email blast. Hillary Clinton will be releasing her Social Security platform in the next couple weeks. Especially with corporations cutting pensions, our grandparents and veterans need Social Security to keep up with their retirement costs.”

Reforming Social Security has become a heated topic in Congress and on the 2016 campaign trail.

Experts expect the entitlement program to run out of money by 2033. Sanders claims lifting the payroll tax cap on workers earning more than $US250,000 would help extend benefits to 2060, though many conservatives say that this alone will not curb the program’s long-term rising costs — many lawmakers and right-leaning think tanks insist that cuts to benefits are needed to extend the salience of the program.

The release of O’Malley’s plan comes as he continues to struggle to gain traction against both Clinton and Sanders, who has been a surprising upstart in the race. A recent average of Real Clear Politics surveys nationally gives O’Malley just 1.7% of the Democratic vote.

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