Larson Opening Statement at Subcommittee Hearing on Protecting and Improving Social Security: Enhancing Social Security to Strengthen the Middle Class

Mar 12, 2019
Press Release

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning. Today will be the first hearing, in a series of hearings on how to protect and enhance Social Security. This is a historic moment.

I’ve spoken with many of our colleagues on the other side, and I think we share a common bond in this. 

We care deeply about a program that everybody recognizes is the nation’s premiere insurance program. 

As a Congress, we haven’t made improvements to Social Security since 1983; we haven’t expanded it in over 50 years.

What I’ve found that the American people care most about is a solution. What they despise the most about the Congress is the dysfunction they normally see; when they see people going to their respective corners and are unwilling to get anything done. But, what I see in this group on this dais, are people who are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get after a solution to a problem. 

And I’ll give the President credit here. He stood on a stage with 16 other Republicans, and pledged not to cut Social Security. He understands the importance of it too. 

What we’re addressing in these hearings is that Congress hasn’t paid enough attention to Social Security to make sure it’s actuarially sound. 

This should be a concern of everyone’s. Every day 10,000 baby boomers are becoming eligible for Social Security benefits. More than 62 million Americans are already receiving Social Security benefits. We have a responsibility to act to strengthen this program for them.

Not to act will amount to a 25 percent benefit cut come 2034. In other words, for the person who was making $50,000 a year throughout their working career, they would actually be living at a poverty level in terms of a benefit that they would receive after these cuts. 

The choice is simple, we need to work bipartisanly and act.  

We’ve come to this endeavor to put our shoulders to the wheel and move the nation forward. 

Social Security is our nation’s most successful insurance program. Social security isn’t an entitlement, it’s the insurance you’ve paid for! 

That’s why the deduction on your payroll is called FICA, the Federal Insurance Contribution Act. Whose contribution? Yours! 

Nobody’s getting rich off of Social Security, they are using these benefits to pay for essentials; this money goes straight back into the economy. 

Consider a 2013 study commissioned by the AARP shows that Social Security benefit payments support more than 9 million jobs and add almost $1.4 trillion in output to the overall American economy. For every dollar Social Security benefits generate, in return there’s about $2 in economic output. 

If we were to let the 25 percent reduction happen in 2034, because we didn’t do anything to strengthen the program, it could cost the economy about 2.3 million jobs and $349 billion in economic output. Doing nothing doesn’t only impact beneficiaries, it would impact the entire economy. 

Not only do we need to work to protect the program, but we need a solution to make the program, as the actuaries say, “sustainably solvent,” or in other words, making sure Social Security remains strong throughout this century, not just for seniors, but for millennials too. Nowhere on the private insurance market can you find a plan like Social Security that offers a pension plan, disability insurance, and life insurance for spouses and dependents. This is the working American’s retirement guarantee that they’ve earned. 

For nearly two-thirds of beneficiaries, Social Security represents the majority of their income. For more than one-third, it represents more than 90 percent of their income. 

Our seniors are not a burden, they are an inspiration, and they should be able to retire with dignity. 

Without Social Security, the senior poverty rate would be nearly 40 percent. But because of Social Security, the senior poverty rate is less than 10 percent. 

It isn’t just 10,000 baby boomers a day, according to economists at the Federal Reserve, on average 90% of households have not been able to recover the wealth they lost during the Great Recession 10 years ago. 50-64-year-olds are worried about their retirement. Social Security is the lifeline people rely on. 

That’s why it’s time we need to take action. That’s why we’re having this series of hearings, because doing nothing isn’t an option. The American people want the certainty and security Social Security provides. Our goal is to continue to provide that for them. 

I’ve discussed with many of you, we’re going to continue to have regular hearings and briefings, something we haven’t done in the past eight years. We’re going to work together to come up with a product that we can call a solution. 

And with that I will recognize the Republican Leader, Mr. Reed for an opening statement.