Steny Hoyer weighs in on Social Security

Friday, December 17, 2010

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), answers a question on Social Security from Robert Weiner, former chief of staff of the House Aging Committee, at the National Press Club on Monday.

Weiner: You mentioned the fiscal commission's provocative report. But they and many [others] don't acknowledge that Social Security is solvent. . . . Social Security is solvent and paid for through 2037, and 25 percent short at the most even after that. It doesn't contribute a dime to the deficit, even on paper. So it isn't anything that the Deficit Commission can take advantage of, other than taking money from it. How did Social Security become the symbol of saving the deficit and doing something, instead of the real costs of Iraq, Afghanistan and tax breaks for the rich? And will the Democrats, and Congress as a whole, resist the sound bite to save the budget by cutting Social Security?

Hoyer: Thank you. First of all let me say that Social Security ought not to be looked at as a way to reduce the deficit and your point is well taken.

However, at the same time we need to make sure that Social Security is not only solvent through 2037, but solvent for future generations. Therefore, we must address its solvency within its own construct. I think that is what many have said, and there are many ways to do that. Frankly Social Security is much easier to deal with than Medicare and Medicaid, which are a very much greater challenge in terms of cost.

Now you mention as well the expenditures we have made without paying for them. We have fought two wars that have incurred about a trillion dollars in expenses - none of which has been paid for, it has all been borrowed money. When I said the civic virtues of self-discipline, I meant that we need to make sure that we pay for what we buy. Therefore, we included in our budget a statutory pay-go. I think that is a return to what we did in the '90s, where we disciplined ourselves in terms of expenditures. I think we need to continue to do that. What I have said, and many of you have heard me say, in the short term in an economic downturn you cannot do that because what you need to do is to give stimulus to the economy, and you can't depress it at the same time. Therefore, you need to incur debt at times of economic stress. However, we incurred great deficits at the time of economic well-being. That has been the problem that we confront today.

But to your point - Social Security is clearly something the Democrats are going to make sure is in place, is solvent, is there for future generations, will not be privatized, and will be as generations have had it to rely on in their retirement.

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