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Larson Opening Statement at Social Security Subcommittee Hearing entitled “Save Our Social Security Now”

(As prepared for delivery)

The Subcommittee on Social Security will come to order. Welcome to our witnesses and audience members. Thank you everyone for being here today.  

In this hybrid hearing format, we will proceed in the same fashion as the Subcommittee always has. I want to thank the staff for all the work that went into this with precautions for COVID and the technological challenges.  

We will begin with opening statements by the Chair and Ranking Member, followed by testimony from our witnesses, and an opportunity for each member to inquire for five minutes. 

We will dispense with our practice of observing the Gibbons rule and instead go in order of seniority for questioning – alternating between minority and majority. I know that we may have a few Ways and Means members who are not members of the subcommittee who are joining today.  They will be permitted to inquire after all subcommittee members have had their opportunity to question.  

As a reminder, members who are joining remotely will be responsible for muting and unmuting themselves throughout the proceeding.  All members and witnesses please make sure to keep your microphone muted when you are not speaking.  This will help to minimize feedback. 

For those of you joining me here in person, it is good to see you and for those joining remotely, I am glad you are able to participate as well. 

With that, I would like to welcome everyone to the Committee on Ways and Means, Social Security Subcommittee’s hearing on “Save Our Social Security Now.”  

Before we begin, would everyone please rise as we observe a moment of silence for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

Thank you.  

Why are we having this hearing today?  What is the sense of urgency with Social Security?  

Please play the video.

Pictures are worth a thousand words and the President has clearly stated that he wants to terminate the payroll tax.  The President’s executive action is unwise and is the first step towards defunding Social Security.  More alarming, the President has made it clear in not only these clips, but on 14 times occasions he will terminate the payroll tax or cut benefits

What’s worse, he’s doing this during a pandemic, when the most vulnerable among us – the elderly – need our support the most.  

This also comes at a time when Social Security is about to be paying out more than it’s taking in. 

Further, as the Chief Actuary has stated, if the payroll tax was terminated as the President had indicated he would do, the Social Security Disability fund would be depleted in 2021 and the entire Social Security Trust fund would be depleted as early as 2023.  

The bottom line, Americans would no longer be receiving their Social Security checks as early as 2021 something they rely on. 

It is this Committee’s jurisdiction and responsibility to ensure Social Security is sustainably solvent.  

The President’s actions and statements have created the urgency to have this hearing today. 

Social Security was the signature plan of President Roosevelt that lifted Americans out of the Depression, provided them with financial security, and remains the number one anti-poverty program for Americans. It does so by providing our citizens with the dignity they deserve and have paid for throughout their working lives. 

As our beloved colleague John Lewis pointed out, Social Security is also a civil rights issue. 

As Chair of the Committee, I have made it my goal to educate all Americans that Social Security is NOT a government hand out, and it is NOT an entitlement.  It is an earned benefit that they have paid for!  It is easily verified by looking at their paystubs, where it says FICA, the Federal Insurance Contributions Act! 

Whose contribution? Theirs! 

No American should be fooled or led to believe this is a tax.  It’s an earned benefit, a contribution by employee and employer.  The employer gets a tax write-off, the employee gets an earned benefit. And as Americans know, this isn’t just a pension, but also spousal, dependent children, survivor, and disability coverage. 

We don’t have to go back to the Great Depression in 1929 to review the history and impact of Social Security. We only have to go back to 2008 and 2009 when people witnessed firsthand their 401ks become 101ks.  

As economists at the Federal Reserve found, the bottom 90 percent of working Americans have not recovered their wealth and assets that they lost in the recession. During that same time period, Social Security never missed a payment!  Not a pension, spousal, dependent child, or disability benefit was missed. 

This is what unites us.  

Presidents both Democratic and Republican have understood the importance of Social Security.  Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan worked to enhance and secure Social Security, not terminate it. 

For every hour our citizens have worked making contributions to their insurance plan reflects the self-reliance and dignity of this program. This is a vital compact between citizens and government.  It is the sacred trust they have come to rely on – it is their Social Security. 

Now, in the midst of a pandemic, we’re facing a historic recession with 30 million people unemployed.  And more Americans are relying on Social Security than ever before. 

Americans are suffering.  Millions are facing evictions, can’t feed their families, and have lost their jobs. More than two hundred thousand have already died. 

This is not the time to terminate payroll taxes and defund Social Security! It’s hard to imagine a time that could be worse.  This is what our hearing is about today! 

Bottom line, whether well intended or ill informed, we are here today to clearly state: 

Don’t Mess With Our Social Security! 

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