Chairman Smith Opening Statement – Hearing on Social Security Fundamentals: A Fact-Based Foundation
As prepared for delivery.
“Thank you, Chairman Ferguson and Ranking Member Larson, for holding this hearing to lay out a fact-based foundation for us all to better understand the things this Committee needs to think about as it pertains to our jurisdiction over strengthening the Social Security program.
“Social Security is vital to the retirement foundation of millions of Americans. Preserving this program for future generations, as well as benefits for current retirees, is one of the most important issues we must address.
“And we must do so together, absent political gamesmanship. The American people deserve that. An issue of this importance can only be accomplished if both sides agree to work together to find reasonable solutions to strengthen the program’s long-term finances.
“This challenge is not getting easier. In the most recent Social Security Trustees report, the date the retirement trust fund hits insolvency moved up one year earlier.
“Today’s rising interest rates, and the worst inflation in 40 years is contributing to this challenge.
“Last year, higher inflation resulted in an 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment, Social Security’s highest since 1981. This was not a windfall for seniors. It was needed to keep up with prices. Unfortunately, that high COLA has also resulted in many lower income seniors paying taxes on their benefits for the first time. Perhaps, this is an issue this committee could further exam.
“Social Security pays cash benefits to over 65 million people each month, the majority of whom are retired workers. Millions of retirees already face tough choices on how to afford their day-to-day expenses, their medications, and food.
“We owe it to every working family, to today’s seniors, and tomorrow’s retirees to make sure the program is working properly and strengthened.
“Like many Americans, my own mother is one of those 65 million on Social Security. For her and the many other Americans relying on their benefit check, promises made should be promises kept.
“I applaud the work of the Social Security Subcommittee today to not avoid this conversation, but to instead lead the way on setting a fact-based bipartisan foundation for future discussions. Agreeing on a common set of facts is the first of many steps to working together to find a path forward to protect and strengthen these programs.
“I yield back.”