Washington, D.C.– Ahead of Friday’s expected vote by the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility on its final recommendations for debt reduction, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva – who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus – and Rep. John Conyers sent each commissioner a letter urging protection of Social Security benefits for current and future retirees. The letter mirrors a message delivered in late October to President Obama pledging to oppose any effort to privatize or cut the program or raise the retirement age.
“The prolonged and unnecessary debate about whether to slash Social Security benefits and yank the financial rug out from under millions of Americans should end now, and it can end as soon as members of the Commission announce they will not support any cuts,” Rep. Grijalva said. “Social Security has never contributed a dime to the national debt and should never have been part of the Commission’s conversation. The American people have spoken loudly and clearly about their wish not to see Social Security tinkered with, reduced or privatized. All the Commission has to do is catch up with reality. Announcing that it will not recommend any Social Security reductions would send a strong message about the importance of this fundamental program and give families the financial security they need and deserve, especially in this struggling economy.”
“After nearly a year of overly secretive deliberation, the Commission is poised to issue its formal recommendations about its preferred prescriptions for improving our nation’s fiscal health,” Rep. Conyers said. “During this time, the media, certain members of the Commission, and other defenders of the corporate class have stated again and again that privatizing, diminishing, and cutting Social Security benefits would be a necessary part of any deficit reduction effort. Each and every time, the American people have spoken out to oppose this flawed argument. We know that cuts to Social Security will slow our economic growth, take money out of our seniors’ pockets, and fundamentally undermine the program’s promise of retirement security. The Commissioners should heed the clear will of the people and keep their hands off of Social Security.”
The letter has been signed by 137 Members of Congress. The full text of the letter follows. The attached file includes the cover letter to Commission co-chair Alan Simpson; an identical letter has been sent to each Commission member.
We write today to express our strong support for Social Security and our view that it should be strengthened. We oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits, including raising the retirement age. We also oppose any effort to privatize Social Security, in whole or in part.
You have charged the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform with proposing recommendations that improve the long-term fiscal outlook and address the growth of entitlement spending. It is our view that Social Security—which is prohibited by law from adding to the national budget deficit—does not belong as part of those recommendations.
By 2023, Social Security will have built up a $4.3 trillion surplus, and, without any action, can pay full benefits until 2037 and at least 75 percent of all benefits thereafter.Because Social Security is funded separately from the general treasury and has no borrowing authority, it has not contributed to the federal deficit. Despite these facts, some Commission members have repeatedly alleged the need to cut Social Security for budgetary reasons.
For 75 years, Social Security has been a promise to the American people that if they work hard and pay their fair share, they will have a financially secure retirement. In communities across this country, Social Security benefits are often the only source of income helping families maintain a decent standard of living. Social Security’s benefits are modest, averaging less than $13,000 a year, but they are vital to the vast majority of Americans who receive them.
Cutting Social Security benefits further than they are already being cut by raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 would create needless hardship for millions of vulnerable Americans. This is especially true in the face of an economic downturn that has wiped out trillions of dollars that Americans were relying on for their retirement security and the increased dismantlement of the private and public pension systems.
If any of the Commission’s recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them. We urge you to join us in protecting and strengthening Social Security rather than letting it fall victim to a misguided attempt to reduce budget deficits on the backs of working families.