Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010

Floor Speech

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Mr. HOLT. I rise in opposition.

I am most concerned that this bill will undermine the very idea of Social Security by taking money out of Social Security and promising to make it whole with general revenues.

When FDR and others created Social Security in 1935, it was a political master stroke. Social Security was created as an insurance program and has remained intact for 75 years because Americans have a real sense of ownership for the program. FDR said Social Security should not use general tax revenues.

This bill puts Social Security on the table with tax breaks for the top 2 percent, with estate tax, alternative minimum tax, accelerated depreciation, making it essentially another bargaining chip. If we allow Social Security to become another bargaining chip for dealing politicians, then it will not be long for this world.

In good economic times and bad, this sense of ownership that Americans will get their due from Social Security has allowed it to survive despite determined efforts by determined enemies.

We can find better ways to boost our economy that do not add billions of dollars of debt to pay for tax cuts for the privileged few and do not jeopardize Social Security.

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It is with regret that I rise in opposition to this legislation. Less than two weeks ago, I joined a majority of this House in passing middle class tax relief that balanced the needs of working families with our Nation's need to get its fiscal house in order. Unfortunately the Senate failed to pass this bill.

The legislation we are considering today is deeply flawed. We should try to put money in the pockets of working families, and I do not fault President Obama and many of my colleagues who want to get something done on behalf of the millions of Americans who need help. But, this is the wrong way to do it.

Yet, at a time when income inequality in the United States has risen to its highest level in decades, the bill under consideration would shift the burden of funding the Federal government further onto middle-class and working-class families. The bill would give away tax breaks to the wealthiest two percent of households at a cost of more than $120 billion charged to the national debt.

I am most concerned, however, that the bill undermines the very idea of Social Security. Social Security has been a pillar of our society for generations. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Frances Perkins, and others created Social Security in 1935, it was a political masterstroke. Social Security was created as an insurance program and has remained intact for 75 years because Americans have a real sense of ownership for the program.

In good economic times and in bad, regardless of which political party is in power, this sense of ownership--that Americans will get out that which they put into the Social Security--has allowed it to survive despite the efforts of determined enemies.

A provision in the bill would reduce an employee's contribution to Social Security from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of salary. This could have a beneficial stimulative economic effect. The $112 billion cost to the Social Security trust fund of this payroll tax holiday is supposed to be replaced with money from the general treasury fund. But that is just the problem. In Social Security's history such a commingling of payroll taxes and money from the Treasury at this scale is unprecedented.

This is not just about the financial health of Social Security, rather it is about Social Security's rationale that has worked well for generations. This bill places Social Security on the table with tax breaks for business expenses and tax breaks for the top two percent of Americans--essentially making it just another bargaining chip. If we allow Social Security to become a bargaining chip for dealing politicians, then it will not be long for this world. As much as we need economic stimulus now, we will need Social security for decades to come. Rather than taking money from Social Security, I would support a tax credit--similar to President Obama's Making Work Pay tax credit--that would give working families a sizeable tax break with money from general revenues.

In a message to Congress on January 17, 1935, FDR insisted that Social Security should be self sustaining and that funds for the payment of insurance benefits should not come from the process of general taxation. FDR's message is as correct today as it was 75 years ago.

To be sure, the legislation before us today contains many good provisions that I would support on their own. The bill contains a one year extension of emergency unemployment benefits. According to the Labor Department, there are five job-seekers for every job opening in the U.S. Extending unemployment is the right thing to do morally and for the economy. The legislation would extend middle class tax relief for two years along with many family-friendly tax breaks such as the Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, Alternative Minimum Tax relief, and marriage penalty relief. The bill also would extend expanded transportation benefits for commuters and tax credits like the research and development tax credit to help businesses grow and create jobs.

Congress needs to provide unemployment insurance for Americans searching for work, extend tax relief for working families, and find solutions to our budget crisis. Yet these must not come at the expense of Social Security. It is too important to lose.

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