This August, Social Security–a bedrock promise Americans have earned with a lifetime of hard work–turns 75. In 2005, President George W. Bush and Congressional Republicans pushed cuts and a risky Social Security privatization scheme. Democrats and the American people said ‘no.’ If Republicans had succeeded, seniors would have lost trillions more in the stock market meltdown of the Bush recession. Instead, no one lost a penny in Social Security. Despite this history, Republicans are once again promising to privatize and cut Social Security–turning it over to Wall Street.
At her weekly press conference today, Speaker Pelosi was asked about recent reports on the Fiscal Commission looking at Social Security in relation to deficit. She explained that we should not be balancing the budget by raising the retirement age of Social Security:
Question: Madam Speaker, on Social Security, you guys marked the 75th anniversary — or the upcoming 75th anniversary yesterday. The Fiscal Commission is likely to look very seriously at Social Security, and I’m wondering on what extent do you think Democrats are undermining the ability of that Commission to do its work by making a point of preserving Social Security and using it as a campaign tool?
Speaker Pelosi: I do not think — first of all, let me say that I don’t think that the Fiscal Commission was established to undermine Social Security, and so that our support for Social Security undermines their work. This isn’t political. This is who we are. For 75 years or longer, in preparation for the passage of Social Security, this has been a value system for us, for our country, and certainly a priority for the Democratic Party.
We stood proudly together on the steps of the Capitol yesterday to declare that, as we observe the 75th anniversary of the establishment of Social Security, that we are here to preserve Social Security and make the clear differentiation.
Republicans in their budget have the privatization of Social Security. Democrats want to preserve Social Security; Republicans want to privatize it. We are for ensuring Social Security. They will enable “social insecurity.” So that’s where we are.
In terms of the Commission, certainly we all agree that we need to reduce the deficit and that is a responsibility that we have. You all know how much pride I take in being a mom and a grandmother, and I have no intention of leaving my children or grandchildren any debts, and I think that we all as public policy makers share that view.
The fact is, though, that I don’t think, and I have said this over and over, that we should be balancing the budget by raising the retirement age of Social Security. I oppose that. There should be two separate conversations. What are we doing to keep Social Security solvent? Let’s discuss that. What are we doing to balance the budget? But let’s not say that we should balance the budget by making the Social Security age — raising the Social Security age. What is that for? To pay for tax cuts for the wealthy that went before, now we have to raise the retirement age? Is that for wars, endless wars, unpaid for wars; now we have to raise the retirement age? These are two separate subjects. The solvency of Social Security, that is one subject. Let’s discuss that. Reducing the deficit, that is a different subject.
Question: Are you hamstringing the Commission by saying that they can’t even consider an increase in retirement age.
Speaker Pelosi: Well, I would certainly hope so, but I don’t think I will have that impact. That would be my goal, but I don’t think I have that much influence in what they do. They are an independent commission appointed by the President. They have to do what they have to do. And if they want to put everything on the table, I think that our seniors will fare very well.
What are we talking about here? We are talking about how we create growth to increase the revenues that come into the federal Treasury. Growth. That’s one way to reduce the deficit. As we have done, the President has his Commission. We have done the President one better. In the freeze that he had on spending in appropriations, we took it $7 billion less than the President. We have pay-as-you-go as the law of the land. When I became Speaker, we made it the rule of the House, and now it is the law of the land under President Obama. We have cuts — I’ve asked for all of the cuts from the appropriators and their bills are coming through much lower than before.
So there are many ways, whether it is increasing revenue, reducing spending, establishing priorities, eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, duplication, obsolescence, harshly subjecting every federal dollar to the harshest scrutiny. But let’s not start by raising retirement age, balancing the budget. A deficit was created by giving tax cuts to the wealthiest people in America. A deficit that was created by having these unpaid wars. A deficit that was created by having a laissez faire recklessness on Wall Street that [de]creased the revenue stream to the Treasury enormously, which reduced the wealth in America by $17 trillion. Think of what that means in terms of consumer capacity and confidence to spend or to invest or to save.
So how did we get here in the first place? Let’s unravel that and let’s understand what Social Security means to us and not say because we gave tax cuts to the rich we have to raise the retirement age. They are two unrelated subjects.
Social Security is not the cause of our budget deficits, and benefit cuts should not be part of the solution. Social Security is not running out of money or adding to the deficit–quick facts:
The Trust Fund has significant reserves and can pay full benefits until 2037.
Social Security doesn't add to the deficit. It pays its own way through workers' contributions.
Social Security has remained strong through 13 recessions.
We're saying ‘no’ again.