Skip to content

Johnson Opening Statement at Social Security Hearing on “Understanding Social Security’s Solvency Challenge”

September 21, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) today delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “Understanding Social Security’s Solvency Challenge.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:  

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on the differences between the Congressional Budget Office’s and the Social Security Trustees’ projections of Social Security’s solvency.

“We all know how important Social Security is to the millions of Americans who rely on it. But Social Security is in trouble. And the longer we wait, the tougher it becomes to fix it. It’s up to Congress to make the tough choices, based on the best, most accurate information available.

“As Chairman of the Social Security Subcommittee, I take this responsibility seriously. And I am committed to making sure our children and grandchildren can count on Social Security, just like seniors and individuals with disabilities do today.

“Nearly every year, we hold a hearing on the latest Social Security Trustees projections to learn the latest about the challenges Social Security faces. But the Trustees aren’t the only ones that look at Social Security’s long-term finances. The Congressional Budget Office does too.

“Both CBO and the Trustees have been looking at Social Security’s finances for decades. And as you can see on the screens, today, the Trustees and CBO paint very different pictures of just how much trouble Social Security is in.

“But it hasn’t always been that way. Just a few years ago, when CBO was still using many of the same assumptions as the Trustees, the estimates were fairly similar.

“Today, CBO and the Trustees look at the same historical data but use different approaches and make different assumptions about the future. And those differences have a real impact.

“CBO and the Trustees don’t agree on whether Social Security’s finances got better or worse this year. They also don’t agree on when Social Security’s Trust Funds will be exhausted. Last year their estimates of Social Security’s shortfall were over 60 percent apart. Now they are over 75 percent apart.

“That’s why earlier this year, Chairman Brady and I asked CBO and Social Security’s Chief Actuary to take a look at each other’s projections and help us understand how they come to such different views of Social Security’s future. Today we will hear what they learned.  

“With CBO and the Trustees so far apart, it’s hard to know if a Social Security plan will actually make the program solvent. While a plan may be solvent according to the Trustees, it might not even get close if you ask CBO.

“I know we’ve all looked at ideas on ways to fix Social Security. And while we may not agree on the best way to do it, we should at least agree that we need an as accurate as possible picture of Social Security’s financial health.    

“Americans want, need, and deserve to be able to count on Social Security and it’s up to Congress to make the changes so they can. We count on the experts, like CBO and the Trustees, to help us figure out how to best do that.  

“And so this hearing is about understanding why these two well-respected organizations have come to very different conclusions on just how much trouble Social Security is in.

“I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.”