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Save Social Security

August 17, 2015
Weekly Columns

For decades, Social Security has brought peace of mind to generations of American retirees and disabled citizens. From that first paycheck and onward into every stage of working life, Social Security is an investment program that has served tens of millions of American workers. But as we are all too aware, the program’s ability to keep the same promise to future generations of American workers is in grave danger.

During the same week that Social Security marked 80 years in existence, it was revealed that most Americans doubt their lifelong investment in the entitlement program will be returned or realized. In a poll released by AARP, it was reported that 57 percent were not confident in the future of the program. Of those most skeptical, young people appear to be most disenchanted about relying on Social Security for retirement income later on in life.

Those reported feelings and concerns about the solvency of the program are not ill-founded. Based on current forecasts, the program’s combined trust funds are on track to be exhausted in 2033. Even worse, for the Disability Insurance Trust Fund within Social Security that pays disability benefits, a crisis looms large in the coming year when it is expected to go bankrupt.

While I wish lawmakers and the president had already changed the trajectory of the imminent Social Security crisis, it is important to note that conversations are taking place on both sides of the aisle. Not only did the Budget Conference Report include language urging Congress and the president to work together to find solutions, but the House Budget Committee, of which I am a member, has an initiative meant to encourage discussion on worthwhile reforms to programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxation, has a subcommittee dedicated to Social Security.

But one effort of which I am particularly proud and hopeful is a bipartisan piece of legislation that I helped introduce to save Social Security in the previous and current Congress. In March of this year, I joined with my Democrat House colleague John Delaney to reintroduce a bill that calls for a bicameral and bipartisan commission to discuss and propose solutions for Social Security. Inspired by the 1983 Social Security Commission, the 13-person panel created by the legislation would include members from both parties and both chambers. The panel would have a year to report back to Congress with recommendations, and any proposal would require a vote in both chambers. If passed by Congress and signed into law, measures could be taken to save Social Security.

Throughout the entirety of working life, every American contributes to Social Security and trusts in the promise of future benefits from the program later on in life. Unfortunately, as we have been reminded all too often, Social Security is in grave danger. Without immediate changes that modernize the current system, Social Security will not be able to pay the benefits that American workers have earned and have come to rely upon and expect. Rather than risk breaking the promise made to generations who have paid or will pay into the system, we must do something about it.