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GOP Social Security Leader: “We can all make sure Americans can count on Social Security to be there for them.”

March 12, 2019

Today, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held the first hearing in a series entitled “Enhancing Social Security to Strengthen the Middle Class.”

Republicans on the Subcommittee made the case that Social Security is a vitally important program for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and their families.  Ready to work together with Democrats, GOP Members of the Subcommittee said strengthening and improving Social Security must occur without devastating tax increases.

Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), the top Republican on the Subcommittee, said in his opening remarks that Republicans want to work with Democrats so “we can all make sure Americans can count on Social Security to be there for them, for their children and their many grandchildren to come.”

The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Rep. John Larson (D-CT), solidified this point, saying “we need to work bipartisanly and act.”

Throughout the course of the hearing, Republicans laid out four principles for reforming the program:

  • Long-term economic growth by encouraging work, not penalizing it;
  • Equal treatment for public servants;
  • Acting now to protect future generations ; and
  • Protecting the most vulnerable people through focused reforms.

Long-term economic growth by encouraging work, not penalizing it

The U.S. economy is strong and growing following the GOP Tax Cuts, put into place at the start of 2018.  Stronger economic growth is important to Social Security, and potential tax increases could slow down jobs and wages, according to Joseph Semprevivo, a small business owner from Florida.

Mr. Semprevivo stressed raising taxes “would hurt entrepreneurship rates.”

“This is a worrying prospect given the important role that entrepreneurship plays in job creation, standard of living improvements, and economic growth. . . . I don’t know whether I would have started my business if I had to pay 15 cents on every dollar I earn in payroll taxes,” said Mr. Semprevivo.

“Job creation is an important part of saving Social Security,” added Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA).

Equal treatment for public servants

 Within the Social Security program is the “Windfall Elimination Provision” (WEP).  Though well intentioned, the WEP is an arbitrary Washington compromise and has resulted in public servants – particularly teachers, fire fighters, and police officers – receiving unequal treatment as it relates to their benefits.

Addressing this provision is “the easiest bipartisan solution” lawmakers need to consider in this debate, said Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX).  The Texan stressed that we must ensure Social Security treats all public employees fairly and equally.

Chairman Larson affirmed bipartisan commitment toward this cause.  “We fully intend to have a hearing on that.”

Acting now to protect future generations 

Rep. Ron Estes (R-KS) asked Joan Ruff, Chair of the Board of Directors for AARP, why Congress needs to act now in order to protect Social Security for future generations.

Ms. Ruff, citing the Social Security Board of Trustees 2018 Annual Report, said the federal government currently has sufficient funds to pay full Social Security benefits until 2034.  She said a lack of action prior to that date makes Social Security reform more difficult.

“The longer we wait, the tougher those solutions are going to be,” warned Ms. Ruff.  “If we wait . . . people get worried.”

Rep. Estes agreed, saying “the sooner we act, the easier and more likely it is going to be to protect this valuable asset that retirees deserve.”

Protecting the most vulnerable people through focused reforms

Millions of people, and from all walks of life, receive benefits through the Social Security program.

“We have diversity and we have a lot of different things going on in our communities,” said Rep. Ferguson.  A dentist and small business owner from rural Georgia, the Congressman said that he served hundreds of patients from different socioeconomic backgrounds – all of whom have different needs and concerns.

A targeted approach, instead of across-the-board increases, is the best way to ensure that Social Security works well for every American, especially the most vulnerable.

Rep. Ferguson stressed that lawmakers need to “have those honest conversations.”