Ranking Member Steve Womack (R-AR) Opening Remarks at Hearing on Strengthening Retirement Security

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery:

Thank you, Chairman Yarmuth, and thank you to our witnesses for joining us today.

Strengthening retirement security for today’s seniors and families as well as future generations is a goal we all share. The question is how we get there – especially at a time when roughly 10,000 more baby boomers reach retirement age every single day.

Let’s start with Social Security. Not only is it one of the biggest parts of our federal budget, making up 24 percent of all federal spending, it is also a primary source of retirement income for millions of Americans.

We’ve all seen the data and read the headlines – this program is in trouble.

As more Americans become eligible for Social Security benefits, and as Americans live longer, fewer Americans are entering the workforce and paying into the program. Over time, that means the money Social Security spends on benefits will outpace the revenue it brings in through payroll taxes.

At its current rate, the program will only be able to pay three quarters of the benefits retirees were promised by the year 2035.

I agree with my friends across the aisle – that’s not right.

It’s our responsibility in Congress to prevent these across-the-board benefit cuts and make sure this important program can continue – and work better – for workers and retirees today and for generations to come.

As America’s demographics have evolved, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have worked together on four separate occasions to pass structural reforms to improve this program.

Most recently, in 1983, Congress passed legislation to gradually increase the retirement age from 65 to 67. That was a commonsense, bipartisan idea to address the fact that Americans are living roughly 15 years longer today than they were when Social Security was first created in 1935.

I am committed to working together to uphold the history of bipartisan Social Security reforms.

One thing is certain – punishing today’s workers and job creators with enormous tax hikes is not a solution. That approach would drag down our economy and penalize Americans for working hard, hurting millennials and small business employees the most.

When it comes to Social Security, we should focus on rewarding work while targeting benefits to help vulnerable Americans.

We can also strengthen retirement security for all Americans by continuing to promote policies that fuel our economy.

With more jobs, record-low unemployment, record-high wage gains, and a growing economy, workers and families are able to save and invest more for their future.

That’s not only led to record-high contributions, it’s also led to increased optimism.

A recent CNBC poll found that a majority of Americans are feeling more confident about saving for retirement today than they felt three years ago.

And in a survey conducted by the Federal Reserve, 75 percent of retirees believe they have enough retirement income to maintain their standard of living.

We should focus on solutions that build on this progress and help even more Americans save.

For example, the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, or the SECURE Act, introduced by bipartisan leaders on the Ways and Means Committee, would strengthen retirement security by encouraging job creators of all sizes to offer full- and part-time employees more retirement options.

I look forward to exploring more bipartisan solutions like this today.

With that, thank you again for holding this hearing, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.