The President's Fiscal Commission has set aside today as the day they'll hear from the "public".  Of course, that's the public as defined by Washington which is largely advocacy and interest groups.  The event is being streamed online here. Our President/CEO, Barbara Kennelly, speaks to the panel today and has focused her remarks on the quest to cut Social Security.
Thank you for inviting me to be here today.  I will be limiting my remarks to Social Security.    You are faced with the difficult mission of finding ways to reduce the deficit.  On behalf of the 3 million members and supporters of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare – and millions of other Americans who support Social Security – I am here to urge you:  while you are considering your macro-economics and deficit numbers – please do not lose sight of the millions of individual people whose quality of life depends on every decision you make affecting Social Security.   Many of my points are sometimes forgotten in the face of today’s fiscal crisis.  -          More than 9 out of 10 American workers participate in Social Security – thus changes you make in the program will affect virtually every person in this country -          Today, 52 million Americans receive benefits from Social Security – and many rely heavily on these benefits for their income   Social Security today creates a stable, basic income for all families when the primary breadwinner is no longer able to work because of age, disability or death.  Social Security allows the elderly to live out their lives in dignity, with a basic benefit that reflects the contributions they make to the program during their working years.      But despite its importance to the American people, Social Security is not a generous program and the vast majority of seniors are not wealthy.  They are average Americans who worked hard all their lives.        -          Their median income in retirement is just $18,000 -          The average Social Security retirement benefit is only $13,800 a year - $11,000 for women.  -          And about 40% of the average senior’s Social Security check goes to health care out-of-pocket costs, even with Medicare  Most importantly, Social Security will be just as critical to younger generations of workers as it is to today’s retirees.  If anything, young people’s financial world could be more chaotic than their parents:  -          Jobs with traditional pensions are a thing of the past -          Only about ½ of today’s workforce has access to any kind of retirement plan through their employer, and -          The value of the largest retirement asset millions of workers own was destroyed when the housing bubble burst. What many of today’s workers have is their Social Security – and there simply isn’t much room to reduce their benefits.    I was in Congress in 1983 during the last major Social Security reform.  We made a number of changes designed to fund the benefits of the baby boomers when they began retiring in the early 2000s.    That reform was immensely successful – it extended the programs’ solvency for over half a century.  And the surplus we built was invested in the safest asset possible – Special Issue Treasury Bonds backed by the full faith and credit of the United States.  I know it is customary for some today to disparage the Trust Funds as if they don’t exist.  But those bonds are no different than any other debt instrument issued by the United States government, and I find it incomprehensible that Congress might someday agree to pay back our foreign neighbors before honoring the debt it owes to the American people.    I understand the drive to reduce the deficit – frankly, I’m as appalled by $1.4 Trillion in red ink this year as you are.  But Social Security did not contribute one thin dime to the deficit – it should not be used as a piggy bank to fix the mistakes of the past.   The American people do not support cutting Social Security in order to reduce the deficit.  American workers rightfully see Social Security as their money – not the governments’.  It represents their hard-earned dollars that came out of each and every paycheck throughout their working lives.  They are even willing to pay more to strengthen the program for their children and grandchildren.   They flat-out reject the notion that you can strengthen Social Security by cutting it.    Americans want fiscal sanity returned to Washington, but they don’t believe it should be accomplished by cutting Social Security.    Social Security benefit cuts are the last place you should be looking for deficit reduction, not the first place.   Thank you.