Ranking Member Larson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing on Social Security Solvency
Thank you, Chairman Johnson, for holding this hearing.
Millions of Americans rely on Social Security for basic income when they are retired, or if they become severely disabled and can no longer work. Social Security is also there to help widows and children who have lost a parent. There is no private plan on the market that can compare.
Americans also know that Social Security is an insurance plan – not an entitlement. They have earned these benefits with every paycheck and know they can count on them. That is why we must fight back against misinformation that Social Security is bankrupt and won’t be there for future generations. That is simply not true.
We must fight back against calls to make cuts to Social Security and, instead, come together in a bipartisan way to make common sense adjustments to strengthen America’s insurance plan and protect the benefits Americans’ have earned and rely on.
The Trustees Report shows that Social Security can pay full benefits for the next 17 years, until about 2034. But even after that time – and even if Congress makes no changes, which of course we always have done and would again -- the insurance premiums workers pay in the form of payroll taxes would still be able to cover three-quarters of benefits due. That is good news.
Again -- I do not think Congress will fail to take action to protect Americans’ earned benefits and prevent cuts. But we should not wait until 2034 to do so.
Both the Chairman and I have offered comprehensive plans to address the long-term shortfall in the Social Security system. While differing in their approaches, I hope we will be able to have a hearing out in Texas or elsewhere in the country to discuss our different approaches to Social Security right there with the American public.
The new report also shows that Social Security has accumulated more than $2.8 trillion in its reserves, which will be used in future years to help pay for benefits. In the meantime, the most immediate problem facing Social Security is the failure by Congress to provide a sufficient budget for the Social Security Administration to serve our constituents – workers and beneficiaries alike.
Since 2010, the number of beneficiaries has grown by 13 percent as the baby boomers reach retirement age, but Social Security’s operating budget has fallen by more than 10 percent, after accounting for inflation.
This is causing real harm to people in my district in Connecticut, and across the country. People are waiting longer and longer for appointments at local field offices. Most callers to the 800-number can’t get through to an agent. And delays for disability benefits are at an unprecedented high: 605 days this year.
That is fully two months longer than last year. In the meantime, severely ill and injured workers lose their savings, their homes, and sometimes even their lives as they go years without income or health care. Congress has a duty and an obligation to the beneficiaries to do better.
I thank Chairman Johnson for holding this hearing and look forward to hearing from the Chief Actuary, Steve Goss.