Our Seniors Need Help Now

Floor Speech

Date: March 16, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LARSON of Connecticut. Madam Speaker, Martin Luther King famously said in a speech in Memphis that there is always a need to act, but especially, as he noted there at the time, with the fierce urgency of now.

The fierce urgency of now, as it relates to Social Security, has been underscored by a global pandemic, a global pandemic that has hit the world and our country especially hard.

More than 940,000 Americans have lost their lives. Of those who have perished, over 700,000 of them are over age 65. I bring this to the attention of the body because COVID has specifically underscored a problem that existed amongst our elderly before the outbreak of this international pandemic. Over 700,000 over the age of 65 have died. This is the same group that is worse hit by the effects of inflation.

As you know, Madam Speaker, everybody who is on a fixed income and has to marshal their resources understands how inflation can be crippling. All the more reason that we need to provide relief, and relief is on the way. Relief is on the way with the Social Security 2100: A Sacred Trust Act, currently in the process of being marked up in the Ways and Means Committee.

Our seniors need our help now, as they struggle both with COVID and as they struggle being on a fixed income.

The last time that the United States Congress did anything to enhance Social Security was more than 51 years ago. Richard Nixon was the President of the United States, and the cost of a gallon of milk was 72 cents.

A lot has transpired since then, but what hasn't taken place is Congress and its responsibility to make sure that Social Security keeps pace with the changes that are needed. The last time Congress did anything substantial with Social Security was 39 years ago, in 1983. It increased the solvency, but it did so by cutting benefits and taxing the elderly.

Social Security 2100 seeks to enhance benefits, that hasn't been done in more than 50 years, and eliminate a burdensome tax on people who have to work after they have retired in order to make ends meet.

I want to especially commend the Congressional Black Caucus and Mr. Clyburn for their efforts in this area, underscoring, again, and knowing what happens to people of color.

As Mr. Clyburn so eloquently says: Not only is it people of color, but people in rural America. All across the South and all across this country, rural Americans are forced to live on fixed incomes that haven't been adjusted in more than 50 years. In the midst of COVID and this inflation, they are the ones who are hurt the most.

Congress can no longer afford to kick the can down the road and, once again, not address the preeminent program that prevents the elderly from living in poverty and the preeminent program that prevents children from living in poverty. It is time for Congress to act. It is our responsibility to do so.

As the chair of the Subcommittee on Social Security on the Ways and Means Committee, I am proud that Chairman Neal and our membership are moving this legislation forward and onto the floor. It wouldn't happen without the best efforts put forward by Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and I commend Joyce Beatty for her efforts as well.