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Johnson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing on the 2016 Trustees Report

June 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Subcommittee hearing reviewing the 2016 Social Security Trustees Report.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:
“This morning, the Social Security Board of Trustees finally released this year’s annual report on the financial health of Social Security.

“We all know Social Security is in trouble. And the first step to solving a problem is to know what you are up against.

“Today we will hear from Social Security’s Chief Actuary about the findings in this year’s report just released this morning.

“We all know how important Social Security is to the millions of Americans receiving benefits.

“And given the challenges facing Social Security, you would think these annual reports would be released on time. Unfortunately, that’s just not been the case.

“As you can see on the screens, for each year of this Administration, the Trustees Report has never been released on time. On average, they’ve been delivered around 75 days late. This year’s report is 82 days late, and that’s not the latest it’s ever been released. Let’s be thankful this year’s report is not as late as the 2010 report, which was 126 days late.

“The Trustees Report isn’t a new thing- in fact, it was created as part of the 1939 Amendments. It’s original due date was the first day of each regular session of Congress.   In the early 1950s, the Congress extended the due date to March 1. Then, in the mid-1960s, the Congress shifted the deadline forward by one more month to give the Trustees more time. The current April 1 deadline has been in place since 1968.

“This is not a suggested deadline. This is a mandated deadline. The American people have a right to expect that the deadline will be met. Period. Along with Chairman Tiberi whose Health Subcommittee oversees Medicare, I wrote to Secretary Lew twice this year asking why this year’s report was late. However, the Secretary did not think it was necessary to personally respond to our letters. That’s unacceptable and the American people deserve better.

“It’s clear this Administration is not serious when it comes to Social Security. This year’s budget didn’t even include the President’s usual empty words about fixing Social Security.

“Earlier this month, the President spoke about his plan for Social Security. But he forgot one important thing. The first rule when you are in a hole is to stop digging.

“During his recent speech in Indiana, the President suggested we should increase Social Security benefits and just ask the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more.

“Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

“But even taxing every dollar of earnings, wouldn’t make Social Security solvent, let alone give the program enough money to pay higher benefits. President Obama’s tax hike rhetoric doesn’t add up, and neither does his math.

“Make no mistake, we should look to improve benefits for lower income individuals who work their entire lives paying into Social Security and don’t receive all that much back in return. But we have to talk about this in the context of real Social Security reform- reform that gets the program on a sound and sustainable financial footing. That means making sure that it is there for our children and our grandchildren, just like it has been there for seniors and individuals with disabilities today.

“Look – I’ve said this before and I will say it again. The longer we wait, the tougher it will get to fix Social Security. So the sooner we act – the better.

“I thank our witness for being here today and giving us the latest update on Social Security’s finances.”