December 02, 2015

Senator Warren Delivers Remarks Urging Congress to Pass the SAVE Benefits Act

Only one month remains until seniors and veterans face rare zero cost-of-living increase

Video of remarks

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren and several of her Democratic colleagues went to the Senate floor this afternoon to call on Congress to pass the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act). A video of Senator Warren's remarks is here, and the text of the sentator's remarks as prepared for delivery is below.

Senator Elizabeth Warren
Remarks on the Senate Floor
December 1, 2015
***As prepared for delivery***

Mr. President, the clock is ticking. Exactly one month from today, on January 1st, about 70 million seniors, veterans, Americans with disabilities, and others who depend on Social Security and other benefits, will get their first check of the New Year. For those 70 million people - one in five Americans - January 1st is supposed to be a day of relief. This is the day when the federal government boosts their checks just a little bit to help with the rising costs of housing, food, and medical care.

But unless Congress does something right now, for just the third time since 1975, seniors and veterans won't be receiving any cost of living increase on January 1st. Not one penny more.

Look at who gets left out in the cold. Two-thirds of seniors depend on Social Security for the majority of their income. For fifteen million Americans, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty. But not one of these Americans will see an extra penny next year. And millions of other Americans whose benefits are pegged to Social Security - millions who receive veterans' benefits, disability benefits, and other monthly payments - won't see an extra penny, either.

Times are tough - but not for everyone.  Last year, CEOs at the biggest 350 American companies received, on average, a 3.9% pay increase. How much money is that? Since the average CEO at one of those top 350 companies made a cool $16.3 million, a 3.9% raise landed them an additional half a million bucks each.

So everything is just great for America's top CEOs who got huge raises, while 70 million seniors, veterans and others who've worked hard will be left with nothing. Why? It's not an accident. It's not inevitable. It's the result of deliberate policies made right here in Congress.

Social Security is supposed to be indexed to inflation so that when prices go up, benefits go up too. But Congress's formula looks at the spending patterns of only about a quarter of the country-and the formula isn't geared to what older Americans actually spend their money on. In fact, official estimates show that the cost of core goods and services has increased, but seniors won't be getting a raise.  Costs go forward while Social Security falls behind-all because of the way Congress says to calculate COLA.

Skyrocketing CEO pay is also, in part, the result of policies set by Congress. Taxpayers subsidize CEOs' huge pay packages through billions of dollars in tax giveaways, including a crazy loophole that allows corporations to write off gigantic bonuses as business expenses. Sure, companies should make their own decisions on how much to pay their executives - but because of laws Congress has passed, American taxpayers are forced to subsidize these multi-million dollar pay packages.

Two decisions-how to calculate Social Security raises and whether to give tax breaks for multi-million dollar CEO bonuses-are made right here in Congress.  Right now, Senators bow and scrape for highly paid CEOs, while they turns their backs on retirees and vets.  We're here because it's time for Congress to make different choices. Representative Tammy Duckworth and I have introduced the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act, the SAVE Benefits Act, to give retirees, veterans, and Americans with disabilities a one-time payment of about $581. That's the equivalent of a 3.9% increase over the average Social Security benefit -- the same percentage raise that CEOs received last year.

Where would the money come from?  We can pay for it just by closing the tax loophole for CEO bonuses that exceed a million dollars.  In fact, according to the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, closing this one loophole will create enough revenue to give a $581 raise to seniors and Vets and still have billions of dollars left over to help boost the Social Security trust fund for the future.

The SAVE Benefits Act would give seniors, vets and the disabled an extra $581 next year. $581 might not mean much to a CEO, but that money would cover almost three months of groceries for seniors or a year's worth of out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs for someone on Medicare. For seniors and vets, that $581 means a lot.

Already, 21 Democratic senators have signed on as cosponsors. Dozens of organizations - Social Security Works, the AFL-CIO,, the National Organization for Women, VOTEVets, the National Council of La Raza, I could go on and on - have endorsed the bill. And across the country, more than 400,000 people have signed petitions urging Congress to pass the SAVE Benefits Act.  

This is about money, but it is also about values. For too long, we've listened to a handful of the rich and powerful insist that we cut taxes for those at the top and leave everyone else behind.  And now, across this country, people are saying "enough!" Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize millionaire CEOs while seniors and vets have to fight for whatever scraps are left behind.

The clock is ticking.  It's time for Congress to step up. The money is there-either way.  It can go for a payment to 70 million Americans who need it and who have earned it. Or it can go to CEOs and the wealthiest corporations.  Let's vote on the SAVE Benefits Act.  Let's show everyone whether we stand up for tax breaks for the country's most highly paid CEOs or whether we work for the seniors and vets who worked their hearts out to build this great country.  Senator McConnell, bring this bill to the floor and let us vote.