November 18, 2013

Senator Warren Delivers Floor Speech on America's Retirement Crisis, Social Security

Warren: “we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis - a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class”

Full Text of Senator Warren's Remarks Available Here

Washington, DC – In a speech delivered on the floor of the United States Senate today, Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed America’s growing retirement crisis and the imperative of protecting Social Security for families who have worked hard and paid into the system their entire lives.

Senator Warren addressed how the financial landscape of families on the verge of retirement has changed in a generation. “Just as they need to rely more than ever on pensions, employers are withdrawing from their traditional role in helping provide a secure retirement,” explained Senator Warren. “Two decades ago, more than a third of all private sector workers – 35% – had traditional, defined benefit pensions – pensions that guaranteed a certain monthly payment that retirees knew they could depend on.  Today, that number has been cut in half – only 18% of private sector workers have defined benefit pensions.”

Senator Warren also emphasized that, while many employers have replaced guaranteed retirement income with savings plans, like 401(k) plans, nearly half of workers lack access to even those plans and 44 million workers have no retirement assistance from their employers.  In addition, savings rates have declined and there is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement.”

“With tens of millions of people more financially stressed as they approach retirement, with  more and more people left out of the private retirement security system, and with the economic security of our families unraveling, Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water,” Senator Warren said.  “And yet, instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits… So long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis – a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class – the absolute last thing we should be doing is talking about cutting back on Social Security.  The absolute last thing we should do in 2013 – at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors – is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.”

Warren rejected calls to cut Social Security benefits by adjusting cost of living increases according to a chained CPI, noting that a “[w]ith some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years – and could even increase benefits.” 

Warren also responded to a Washington Post editorial today that mocked the idea of a looming retirement crisis.  “To make sure no one missed the point, they even put the words ‘retirement crisis’ in quotation marks.  No retirement crisis? Tell that to the millions of Americans who are facing retirement without a pension. Tell that to the millions of Americans who have nothing to fall back on except Social Security.”

Warren closed her speech by noting that Social Security issue is not just about math.  “At its core, this is a conversation about our values.  It is a conversation about who we are as a country and who we are as a people.  I believe we honor our promises, we make good on a system that millions of people paid into faithfully throughout their working years, and we support the right of every person to retire with dignity.”