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Mr. RYAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak here.
I just want to say, I have been in Congress now 20 years, and I have known Mr. Larson for that long. He has been an absolute bulldog on this issue. I think he understands better than most the impact of this program, just consistently, year in and year out, getting this on the radar screen. Now, we are going to have a markup next week on this, really proposing this at a time of great need.
The pandemic that we all have experienced over the last few years, and the global economic collapse that we saw in the last couple of years, I think pulled the veil back on a lot of problems that we have had in this country. We could go through the entire list, but I think one of them that is most significant is how many people in this country, how many seniors in this country, struggle to make ends meet, in the wealthiest country on God's green Earth, the most significant, most dynamic economy.
We have a handful of people building their own space stations, going into space, and, God bless, that can only happen in America. But the reality is that the vast majority of people in this country are still struggling.
What we are talking about here is a group of people who did everything right, busted their rear ends their whole life--single moms taking care of a couple of kids, people working in factories, people waitressing, nurses, public servants, people who are out there every single day and have done everything right.
This is what the Social Security system is all about. I remember when my grandparents passed away. I remember going through their drawers at their house. You have to clean up everything, and it is really a heartbreaking experience.
I found this little black book that was my great-grandfather's, Dominic Guerra. He came over from Italy with 17 bucks in his pocket. It was his little black book. I opened it up, and on the left side, it had the names of the people who belonged to this group that was called the Valsinni Club. He came from a little village in Italy, Valsinni, in the southern part, in the Basilicata region. It was the Valsinni Club.
On the left-hand side were all the names of the Italians from Valsinni in Niles, Ohio. At the top of the book were the months of the year. So, it would say Dominic Guerra and all of these names--a lot of vowels in this book. It would say January, $1; February, $1; March, nothing; April, nothing; May, nothing; June, $1. It was the same for all the different names that were there.
It was a mutual aid book. It was insurance. It was just a group of people kind of putting their own insurance plan together because, one day, I am up and you are down, and the next day, I am down and you are up. That was before Social Security and before Medicare, people coming together, collectively, to help each other, which is a basic American value.
This system was put in place because that was probably happening all across the country with different ethnic groups. Franklin Roosevelt and others said, hey, we better do something about this and collectively come together. That is what this is about. This is an earned benefit.
I will tell you that the American value that undergirds this program is the same American value that has lit this country up since its inception. It is the idea and the value of freedom. Freedom has been the principle here in the United States.
We are talking about economic freedom here. We talk about it with the workforce. We talk about it with rebuilding the middle class. Why? So people can be free. Economic freedom--don't have to work 50 or 60 hours a week. You have time for the things that are important. You have a few extra bucks to take your kids to the college football game or, if you are into self-flagellation, a Cleveland Browns game, or go fishing, go hunting, or have a little boat. Economic freedom.
When we are talking about our seniors, we are talking about freedom, economic freedom for them to live independent lives. Seniors don't want to be a burden on their kids. They don't want to be a burden on their grandkids.
What Mr. Larson and what the Social Security 2100 Act are saying is, how do we lift everybody up, put a few more bucks in people's pockets who have done everything right, making sure people aren't living in poverty, making sure they are independent, that they can take care of themselves? That is what this bill does. It asks people making over $400,000 a year to help make that happen.
I think this is a significant piece of legislation. I think this program is the backbone of the working class.
I will tell you something else. This program is the backbone of rural America, where so many jobs have been lost. It is the backbone of these factory towns that have seen so much loss. You have issues around addiction, overdose, fentanyl. And grandparents raising grandkids, it couldn't happen without Social Security.
The one significant provision in here is to say if a husband and wife are both relying on Social Security and one dies, they are going to get at least 75 percent of the total of both recipients. That is a significant step because we hear so often of a spouse dying and then, all of a sudden, there isn't economic independence anymore, there isn't freedom anymore, there isn't the ability to take care of yourself.
I am here today to say this is a phenomenal thing. I think when most Americans--Democrat, Republican, and Independent--hear about this, there is going to be and continue to be significant support for these reforms.
I hope this bill gets marked up. I hope it comes to this floor for a vote. I hope the Senate agrees, and I hope we pass it and reform it. Then, we are going to lift up millions of people, millions of seniors, in this country. We have John Larson to thank for that.
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