Protecting Social Security at 75
In 2005, President Bush and Congressional Republicans tried to privatize Social Security and cut benefits. Democrats and the American people said no. As we celebrate Social Security on its 75th anniversary next month, Social Security is once again under assault by Congressional Republicans. We're saying no again. Today, dozens of House Democrats took to the House floor to discuss the importance of Social Security and the bedrock promise Americans have earned:
Rep. John Larson, Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus (D-CT):
Thank you, Madam Speaker. I rise today to talk about social security. I rise because our colleagues on the other side of the aisle in this past weekend alone have said they want to return, they want to return to the Bush years, they want to return to privatizing social security, they want to do so so that they can help balance the deficit by cutting social security. Can you imagine, had the Bush tax cuts gone through, had the Bush proposal for social security gone through, what would have happened to so many of our citizens during this great recession? People who rely solely on social security would not have anywhere to turn to. The concept and the idea we often criticize our colleagues for saying they have no plan, but in fact they do. They want to privatize social security. Yeah, they want to privatize social security, they want to voucher Medicare, they want to block grant Medicaid and then they want to turn around and take your health benefits and treat them as ordinary income and tax them. Ladies and gentlemen, members of the Democratic caucus, stand firmly behind social security and its benefits to all of the American people.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Co-Chair of the Seniors Task Force (D-IL):
One in every four American households relies on social security, including 33.5 million retirees, 7.8 million disabled workers, and 4.2 million children. Its benefits are modest. The average retiree benefit is about $14,000 a year, less than $12,000 for women retirees, but essential. One in four retirees depends on social security for almost all of their income. On August 14, social security turned 75 years old. It never missed a check and is cherished by Americans of all ages. We’re able to celebrate its anniversary because in 2005 Democrats beat back President Bush’s and congressional Republicans’ privatization efforts. Today, there are new Republicans calling for privatization. Once again, Democrats will step forward to protect and strengthen social security so we can celebrate this national treasure for generations to come.
Rep. Doris Matsui, Co-Chair of the Seniors Task Force (D-CA):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of social security, and to highlight its importance in the 75 years since its founding. Social security is a pillar of our society, based on the premise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will have the stability and security of a minimum level of guaranteed income as you get older. And the reality is social security provides nearly all of the retirement income for six out of ten seniors in this country. Mr. Speaker, for 75 years social security has never been a day late or a dollar short. And as we approach this historic achievement, we must commit ourselves to strengthening social security, not privatizing it. We must continue to provide the foundation for Americans’ retirement security for generations and generations to come.
Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN):
It’s a time to reflect on the generations and hundreds of millions of Americans that counted on social security to be there to have dignity in retirement to provide quality of life. There’s millions of stories out there, very similar to the one in my family. As a young man watching my father die of a lengthy illness and a 9-year-old brother at home and a stay-at-home mother watching social security survivor benefits be there to allow my little brother to go on and go to college and my mother to go back in the work force. Many people will say and they are absolutely right, “Pull yourself up by the bootstraps” They were right of that. We just didn’t have any boots. They were loaned to us by social security. And for that we have paid that back 10 times over. Our family is stronger, our community is stronger, our country is stronger. In August we should celebrate the 75th anniversary and many more to come.
Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD):
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to commemorate the upcoming 75th anniversary of social security and express my support for the financial security of millions of retired Americans. Representing Maryland’s fourth congressional district, I serve many who oversee and administer the social security administration. One of my constituents I had the honor of meeting in a retirement community in Mitchellville, Maryland. Robert M. Ball was one of the chief architects of social security, the program we know today. Mr. Ball was social security’s chief administrator from 1962 to 1973. He was described once as, “the undisputed spiritual leader and its chief advocate and defender.” He served three presidents, Republicans and Democrats, to make sure it remained strong for all of us. He passed away in January of 2008, but he left a legacy barely known outside Washington, but a program that’s the backbone of America’s social safety net. At a time when Republicans are threatening the privatization of social security, Mr. Ball would say not now. Can you imagine what would have happened a year ago when our nation suffered its worst financial crisis since the Great Depression? Our seniors would have lost everything and our young people would be starting from scratch. The American people deserve better. Democrats are going to give them better. We need to get our economy back on track, get people back to work, and contribute to social security.
Rep. Betsy Markey (D-CO):
Mr. Speaker, as we debate ways to tackle our growing deficit and create jobs, I rise today to call on this congress to reject proposals that would privatize social security or Medicare. Colorado seniors rely on social security and Medicare, and as we struggle to climb out of a deep recession, the security provided by these programs is more critical than ever. Dismantling Medicare and adding trillions of dollars to the deficit with a risky privatization scheme that gambles seniors’ financial security in the stock market is just the wrong way to go. Rolling the dice on the financial security our seniors depend on in a financial system that recently almost collapsed is reckless in the extreme and has been roundly rejected by the American people. We can cut waste, fraud, and abuse from social security and Medicare without cutting a penny in benefits, and I will fight to protect the promise we made to American seniors.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT):
Mr. Speaker, during the first decade of this century, the Bush economy destroyed the middle class. Today we are at a point where 72% of social security retirees have elected early retirement age 62 because they have no other financial choice. But despite the fact that they have voted with their feet in the unprecedented numbers, what is Mr. Boehner’s proposal for social security, which he told “The Pittsburgh Gazette” a couple weeks ago? He wants to raise the retirement age to age 70. If there is a more out-of-touch statement about what the middle class of this country is going through and what an out-of-touch proposal to basically totally knock the stuffing out of the retirement security. Mr. Boehner’s proposal to raise social security retirement age to 70, to means test benefits, would decimate what’s left of the American middle class. We can’t let that happen. Democrats will protect this program, which is celebrating the 75th anniversary this August by maintaining the retirement age that exists today, a program that is solvent until 2037, and with moderate, balanced changes can protect the solvency for far future years and generations.
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to strongly support our nation’s seniors. The government programs upon which they most depend, Medicare and social security are being threatened by congressional Republicans. Recently, those on the other side of the aisle have been championing drastic changes to both programs. They want to cut social security benefits, raise the retirement age to 70, and turn social security benefits over to the stock market. They want to convert Medicare to a voucher program so that seniors will get a coupon to go out of their own way to buy a regular individual insurance policy. And what do congressional Republicans propose to do with these savings? Certainly, they want to pay for the war. I will not stand for stripping senior benefits down. I will not stand for balancing the budget on the back of hardworking retirees. Social security and Medicare benefits belong to our nation’s seniors, and congressional Democrats will not stand for whittling them down or stealing them away. Social security represents the promise, and that is if you work hard and pay into the system you will have financial security in your retirement years. It’s been that way for 75 years. Now is not the time to change it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Rep. Betty Sutton (D-OH):
Mr. Speaker, next month we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of social security. Before 1935, half of America’s seniors lived in poverty. Since F.D.R. signed social security into law, we have upheld a sacred trust to our parents and grandparents–that after decades of hard work, raising their children and defending the US against foreign enemies, they would be able to retire with dignity and respect. Three weeks ago my colleague from Ohio, the House Republican leader, implied we should raise the retirement age to 70 for everyone, office workers and construction workers alike, and cut social security benefits to help reduce the deficit and pay for the war in Afghanistan. Raiding social security in this way is irresponsible and it is a breach of trust. We should not be gutting social security and breaching our sacred trust to America’s seniors. It’s amazing Republicans are willing to gut social security and refuse unemployment compensation during these challenging times while at the same time arguing that we must preserve the tax cuts for the super-wealthy.
Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI):
Mr. Speaker, this year we celebrate the 75th birthday of social security. Since democratic President Franklin Roosevelt signed the social security act in 1935, Americans have known that they can rely on social security benefits when they retire. Today over 160,000 Hawaii seniors and millions of seniors in every other state receive monthly social security benefits. But Republican leaders in Congress have a new plan to privatize social security, balancing the budget on the backs of our seniors. Does this sound familiar? George Bush and congressional Republicans fought to privatize social security in 2005. Seniors all across the country rose up in angry protest. If Republicans had succeeded then, seniors would have lost trillions in the stock market meltdown of the Bush recession. Unbelievably the Republicans still have not given up on their idea to privatize social security. You have to ask, what is it that makes them so deaf to our seniors in our country.
Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX):
Mr. Speaker, the supplemental that this leadership passed was to create jobs and I hope that the bill that comes from the Senate will embrace the need for American jobs. In Ohio, the home of our minority leader, there is a 10.5% unemployment. Can anyone explain to me why the Republicans continue to obstruct the extension of unemployment benefits? Benefits that will benefit those who work and who have worked and who need to pay their mortgages and provide food on the table. Again we have another story. Here is the story of privatizing social security or extending the age. I remember the fight. I was here on the floor of the house when seniors were calling our phone lines and saying, “don’t privatize social security”. Thank goodness for the wisdom of our seniors. If we had privatized social security, they would have collapsed in this abysmal disgrace of Wall Street. No money. But social security has been paying on a faithful basis for now for decades. We know that 72% of the American public don’t want us to raise the age, yet the minority leader wants to raise it so he can pay for the Iraq and Afghan wars. Bring the soldiers home. Recognize that 36 million families are in need of social security. Seniors are in need of social security. Keep our social security the way it is–strong and solvent.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV):
Mr. Speaker, for 75 years older Americans have relied on the guaranteed benefit that social security provides. This monthly check provides a safety net from poverty and is a key component to a dignified retirement after a lifetime of work. Seniors contributed to social security. They earned it. They deserve it. They depend on it. Yet as we celebrate 75 years of this outstanding program, it’s once again under attack by Republicans who want to dismantle the system and spend trillions of dollars in a risky privatization scheme that gambles senior citizens’ savings in the stock market while lining the pockets of Wall Street. Does that sound familiar? It should. Republicans tried to do the same thing under the Bush administration. This represents yet another attempt to return to failed policies that created the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. Well, I stand here committed to fighting back against such programs and protecting social security so the 30,000 seniors in southern Nevada who depend on it won’t be abandoned in their golden years.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL):
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to social security Americans have two choices. On the one hand there is the Democratic Party that created social security, strengthened it, and will continue to defend it from attacks. On the other, there are the Republicans on a never-ending crusade to dismantle this sacred program. The ranking member of the budget committee plans to slash benefits, hike taxes on middle class families, and turn social security over to Wall Street. If the former President Bush and Republicans had their way, trillions would have been lost during the financial crisis. Instead the American people said no to privatization and when the markets crashed, the trust fund did not lose a penny. The American people have consistently rejected the failed Republican ideas that threaten the financial security of seniors. Don’t be misled. We can protect social security’s solvency for the ages, and we can do it without slashing benefits, privatizing the program, or making people work into their golden years. I stand to defend America’s seniors and they deserve nothing less.
Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL):
I rise to express my strongest possible support for social security, an essential lifeline that some 130,000 seniors in my congressional district depend on every day. Social security is an earned benefit that American workers have paid into over a lifetime of their careers. That’s why it’s outrageous, at least from my perspective, to hear some of my colleagues propose to cut social security as a mechanism to reduce the deficit or to pay for the war in Afghanistan. This is irresponsible, short sighted, and overwhelmingly reckless and I personally won't stand for it. Social security is one of the only federal programs that has a dedicated source of revenue, what we pay into, that has paid for itself in full over 75 years now without contributing to the national deficit. In South Florida and around the country, seniors rely on social security as a stable, guaranteed source of income in their retirement years, particularly in these tough economic times. I adamantly oppose and will work to defeat any attempts to weaken America’s retirement security and pay down national debt unrelated to social security on the backs of our seniors.
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA):
Mr. Speaker, for 75 years, social security has lifted millions of seniors and disabled Americans out of poverty. That is why I can’t believe that Republicans would cut social security benefits and make it harder for people who work all their lives to get benefits. Social security is a sacred trust. It is a trust between the American government and the American people. It is a trust between parents and children, between those working and those in retirement. It is the greatest example of the beloved community in America. We will not allow anyone to cut social security. We will hold this sacred trust for generations yet to come.
Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA):
It’s always good to go back to the district. I was there over the weekend. Among those is a wedding. My 85-year-old mother came up to me and said, “John, does that Republican leader really mean t to cut social security to pay for the war?” I said, Well apparently that's what he means. But I'll tell you this, Mom. And to every other mother and father out there that's on social security, no way, no how will the republicans get their way, either privatizing social security or cutting it to pay for the war. That’s not going to happen. The Democrats have been for social security since 75 years ago when it was first established and we remain strong to that commitment. It is there. It is the fundamental opportunity for retirees to have a foundation. No privatization and no cutting of social security despite what the Republican leader might say.
Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA):
One thing good about our country, we always look forward and not backwards. And we are not going to go backwards to allow the privatization of social security. We are not going to go backwards to allow the removal of important protections against Wall Street, abuses of the US economy, we are going to go forward. And we are not going to go backward on environmental protection, and I'll say why this is important. This morning we were doing our investigation of the BP oil spill. We had President Bush’s Secretary of Interior, Gail Norton, testifying. You know what we discovered? During the Bush administration’s rapid ramp-up of offshore drilling, they learned that 50% of the blowout preventers that were supposed to be the fail-safe system to prevent these massive oil spills, 50% of them didn’t work, but they refused to do anything about it. They learned that they had a problem with their own investigators, that the wells weren’t being cemented appropriately, but they refused to do anything about it. We are not going to let folks go backwards on social security, go backwards on Wall Street reform, or go backwards on environmental protection. This is a country that goes forward.
Rep. John Hall (D-NY):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Republicans in Congress are talking about dismantling our social security system. They want to privatize this important program, raise the retirement age, and make our seniors pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This simply unacceptable. 75 years ago our nation made a promise to our seniors. We promised to help them through their golden years. This promise has served our nation well, allowing those who built this great country an opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their hard work. Social security is one of the most important, successful programs in United States history, an invaluable program that helps more than 50 million seniors and disabled Americans. Our seniors depend on their monthly checks to put food on the table and roof over their heads. Without this critical help, many of them would fall into poverty. Social security should not be privatized and must remain intact for America’s future generations.
Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Social security benefits make a significant contribution to the well-being of many Americans. Today 83,545 persons in the seventh district of Illinois rely upon these payments to sustain their monthly living expenses. 59% of them are elderly and 11% are children. These persons receive an average monthly benefit of $996 a month, but the cost of living for rent and utilities in Illinois being $957 per month, equating to 96% of their social security income. While we celebrate social security for the last 75 years, the American aged, disabled, and survivor population, and their children, I encourage my colleagues to make sure that these funds are sustained without further impact on the economic well-being of our most challenged population. Thank you social security.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA):
Mr. Speaker, I want to join all of us in wishing social security a happy 75th birthday. Social security and Medicare are two of the most successful legislative accomplishments in the history of the world. But not everyone in this body is celebrating social security’s overwhelming success. There are many in this body on the other side who would like to privatize social security. Remember the Bush plan to tie social security to the fluctuation of the stock market. This is a gamble we should not take. It is an extraordinary American success story. For those who are simultaneously trying to educate college-aged children, and the thought of caring for elderly parents, let me give you the actuarial reality. It’s impossible. Simply put, the reason that Mom and Dad are not living in your attic is because of social security and Medicare. It is the greatest achievement in legislative history domestically for all of the American families. Happy birthday, social security.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of social security as it approaches its 75 anniversary. When FDR signed this historic legislation into law, he understood that the whims of Wall Street were sweeping many hardworking Americans into financial ruin. At the time, more than half of America’s seniors lacked sufficient income to be self- supporting. Social security changed all of that. Indeed, today in my home state of Florida, 53% of seniors would be below the poverty line without social security. That hasn’t stopped Republicans from wanting to end the guarantee of social security. In 2005 President Bush proposed privatizing social security, which would have cut benefits for 70% of retired Americans. Well, it’s deja vu all over again. While President Bush may be gone, his plans live on. House Republicans are once again calling to privatize social security and Medicare for good measure. We simply cannot risk tossing millions of seniors into poverty. Let us rededicate ourselves into Roosevelt’s vision and to the economic security of all of our citizens, and not throw our seniors out in the cold.
Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY):
If you are one of those folks that have one of those new modern TV’s with the 'what the heck are they talking about' button on the TV, you are going to need it for this side of the aisle, because frankly it is insane for them to wrap their arms around the idea that deficits are growing and booming, then get this, they want to offer tax breaks to billionaires this year. Millionaires and billionaires. And you know how they are going to pay for it? They don’t say. They want to add to the deficit. But there is one moment of clarity we saw recently, that I got to tell you in my 12 years in Washington is refreshing. The Republican head of the budget committee, their ranking member, came up with a proposal to privatize social security. And you know what? That’s not some obscure member. I actually like the guy. I commend him for being honest. Finally the Republicans have come out and said what frankly they have said for 75 years. They want to eliminate social security. Not actually eliminate it, they want to invest it in the stock market. Boy, talk about lessons unlearned. The Democrats who created social security are here to celebrate 75 years of keeping it strong and another, god willing, 75 years. The Republicans want to privatize it, invest it in the stock market. You decide for yourself what the right policy is.
Rep. Gene Green (D-TX):
I rise today to speak in support of the most successful program in the United States government has ever created — social security. Since its inception in 1935, social security has become the great promise that each generation will take care of those who came before it. In our district in Texas, nearly 65,000 recipients receive over $61 million monthly from social security administration. It’s a blue collar district, home to thousands of hardworking families who have overcome wars, natural disasters, and becoming the backbone of the American economy. The national average benefit for retiree is $14,000 a year, a majority of income for six out of 10 seniors. This modest amount guarantees that tens of millions of parents, grandparents can retire with dignity. I believe it’s important we consider what would have happened if Congress had followed on the plans of then President George W. Bush in 2005 to partially privatize social security and make social security subject to the stock market. Or consider what could happen if Congress follows along the plans of some of my colleagues across the aisle in cutting social security to reduce the national debt. I believe in cutting social security is irresponsible and wrong as we approach the 75th anniversary of social security.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, 75 years ago Francis Perkins, a wonderful woman who came from a long line of Maine farmers and craftsmen, addressed the nation as the Secretary of Labor. In addition to being the first woman cabinet maker in our nation’s history, she was also the person President Roosevelt had put in charge of creating the social security system. In her address, she talked about creating a system to “provide safeguards which cannot be wholly eliminated in this manmade world of ours.” Nearly 300,000 people in my state now receiving benefits are living proof that for 75 years social security has done just what Francis Perkins hoped for, assuring a deep and standard of living in good times and bad for seniors and for countless others. From disability insurance and survivors' benefits, to providing a cushion during retirement, social security has allowed Americans to retain their independence and dignity. It must be preserved.
Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-NC):
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to call on Congress to defend social security. For many years, I’ve had the privilege of working to bring commonsense policies and benefits to middle class families in North Carolina and across America. I was proud to help lead the fight against President Bush’s misguided effort to privatize social security and to cut benefits. We won that fight, but now some Washington politicians are threatening social security again with risky Wall Street schemes. During this current economic crisis, more than 50 million Americans depend on social security to make ends meet. Without social security, one out of every two American seniors would fall into poverty. Dismantling social security would eliminate the safety net for millions of disabled Americans and survivors, and many of their children. No politician in Washington, D.C., has the right to threaten an American institution of social security. As we approach the 75th anniversary of social security act, I call on this congress to defend the proposals, and defeat the proposals to cut social security.
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN):
Social security is 75 years old. It came about because of Franklin Roosevelt, a great Democratic president and a Democratic congress evolving out of a depression caused by Republican Herbert Hoover. And now 75 years later we look at a situation where another Republican president, a Hoover-George Bush caused the next financial crisis and the Republicans talk about privatizing social security. Social security is money that needs to be there to preserve people’s standards of living when Republicans who let get out of hand because they don't have any regulations let it happen. This is the most foolish thought I’ve ever seen. If we didn’t learn from September of 2008 that the market is a gamble and comes up and down, it’s not social security, it’s social insecurity. And people have gotten up here and said, you haven’t noticed that Bush is gone? It’s all they can say is Bush is gone. Nobody can defend him–rated the second worst president in the history of the United States. A man who made record deficits by giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires and fighting a war based on lies to rise great deficits and now all they can say is he’s gone. Thank goodness he's gone.
Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL):
I rise in memory of a great Floridian Clark Pepper who served this body and the other body for over 32 years. He was one of the greatest advocates for senior citizens in the history of this body, and I rise today in his memory to talk about the importance of social security to maintain the safety net for all Americans as we celebrate 75 years of social security being the safety net for seniors. And I have some breaking news for everyone. Social security is not the cause of the deficit. Let me repeat. Social security is not the cause of the deficit, and the Republicans' plan to privatize social security is going to be dead on arrival.