Chairman Larson Calls to Strengthen and Protect Social Security
Washington, D.C. – Today, Chairman John B. Larson (CT-01) chaired the first hearing in a series of hearings on strengthening and protecting Social Security. During the hearing Larson called for committee members to work bipartisanly to strengthen and protect Social Security. Witnesses testified on the importance of Social Security benefits to seniors, especially women and people of color. Larson’s opening statement can be found here.
“Social Security is the insurance Americans pay for, it’s not an entitlement. Today, we took the first step forward since 1983 to make improvements to it, because doing nothing is not an option. We have a responsibility to today’s seniors and future generations to strengthen the program for them. This is their retirement guarantee. This was echoed by many of our witnesses today. With the Social Security 2100 Act, we’re proposing a commonsense solution that will strengthen the working Americans’ retirement guarantee. I’m looking forward to further making our case in tomorrow’s hearings and further hearings,” said Chairman Larson.
Kate Farrar, the Executive Director of the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund testified at the hearing and highlighted the importance of Social Security to women. She stated, “At CWEALF, we hear from women every day who struggle financially and rely on Social Security to make ends meet . . . Social Security benefits are critical to support our nation’s women and keep them out of poverty. . . . Action by Congress is essential to secure American women’s economic freedom and stability well beyond their time in the workforce. Our current system is not perfect, but Congressman Larson’s Social Security 2100 Act does highlight several critical steps to address the program’s insufficiencies.”
The Chair of the Board of the AARP, Joan Ruff, testified, saying “Social Security is the only lifetime, inflation-protected, guaranteed source of retirement income that most Americans will have. It is the foundation of retirement security that keeps millions of older Americans out of poverty and allows them to live independently. But Social Security also provides some measure of economic security for families who face a loss of income because of the disability or the death of a wage earner. We often do not think of Social Security as a family income protection plan—yet that is exactly what it is.”
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions testified about how important Social Security is to both low- and middle- income families. “Even though its benefits may not be lavish, the fact that Social Security income can keep members of vulnerable populations out of poverty is well known. Nevertheless, Social Security is more than an anti-poverty program, it is also a public asset that can help preserve and build private wealth. The program helps to preserve wealth by making benefits available to all eligible workers without a means testing requirement. Essentially, workers are not required to spenddown or eliminate assets as a condition for receiving benefits. This function is just as important for wealth preservation among middle class families as it is for families with little wealth, regardless of the racial or ethnic background of a beneficiary. Social Security also helps younger workers build a pathway to the middle class by alleviating the financial burden of supporting aging, disabled or orphaned relatives. As an independent source of income for individuals who would otherwise be financially dependent on their children or relatives, Social Security plays a significant role in boosting the living standards of younger working families.”
Dr. Yanira Cruz, the President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging, highlighted the importance of Social Security to many Latino families in the United States in her testimony: “Many Hispanics/Latinos are among the working poor and depend on Social Security to ensure their economic security after a lifetime of hard work. A large number of Hispanics tend to work jobs that pay lower wages and are less likely to have pension coverage. More than 75 percent of Latinos rely on Social Security for at least half of their income.”
Ilana Boivie, a Research Economist with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, AFL-CIO, testified on the universal guarantee Social Security provides to workers: “The typical defined-contribution plan, e.g. a 401(k) plan, provides a meaningful benefit only to those workers who can afford to contribute a meaningful amount throughout their working lives. The facts about how much workers save for retirement are sobering, and offer no hope these plans will make up for the loss of pensions. Nearly half of families have no retirement account savings at all. Among families closest to retirement (those headed by someone ages 55 to 64), nearly two in five have no retirement savings in a 401(k), IRA, or other defined-contribution account. Among those near-retirement families fortunate enough to have some retirement savings, half had less than $100,000—enough for a monthly retirement income at age 65 of only several hundred dollars.”