Hoyer Refuses to Rule Out Raising the Retirement Age to Address Social Security

July 27, 2010 - 9:11 PM
House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) would not rule out raising the retirement age to keep the Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid programs solvent.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday would not rule out raising the retirement age to try to solve the $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities the federal government faces in Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid and federal pensions.
 
Unfunded liabilities are commitments that the government is obligated to pay, but for which there is no money to repay debts and honor future benefits promised under Medicare, Social Security and government pensions.
 
When asked by a reporter at his weekly Capitol Hill “pen-and-pad” news conference if he would consider raising the retirement age to help Social Security, Hoyer (D-Md.) wouldn’t rule out any possibility.
 
“What I have said, in a speech that was pretty specific, was that I think everything needs to be on the table,” Hoyer said.
 
“We need to bring down the deficit, we need to stabilize our fiscal posture and we need to look at all the expenditures – I’ve indicated entitlements; I’ve indicated defense spending; I’ve indicated revenues. They all need to be on the table,” Hoyer said.
 
Hoyer also did not specifically rule out privatizing retirement accounts, a move favored by most Republicans – and virtually all conservatives.
 
“If we’re going to be serious in America about stabilizing and getting back to a fiscally balanced posture, which we were under the Clinton administration, then we will have to be serious and look at all the options that will help us get there, while at the same time making sure that the selection of those options continues to grow the economy, because if you don’t grow the economy, you will not get back to fiscal stability,” the Democratic leader said.
 
“That is an absolute key – that’s why I’ve said in the short-term, continuing to invest in job growth and economic expansion is critical if you’re going to get to fiscal balance.”
 
Since May, the Maryland Democrat has been working behind the scenes with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to find enough Democratic and Republican lawmakers to willing to commit to making Social Security reform a priority.
 
In the May speech, to which Hoyer referred, the Number Two House Democrat specifically mentioned the idea of raising the retirement age.
 
“We can bring in more revenues,” Hoyer said at the time. “We can restrain the growth of benefits, particularly for higher-income workers, while we strengthen the safety net for lower-income workers. And/or we can raise the retirement age, recognizing that our life expectancy is significantly higher today. What is missing here is not ideas -- it is political will.”
 
In 2008, then-Comptroller General David Walker reported that every American household would have to put up $455,000 to cover the $53 trillion gap that already exits between promised entitlement benefits of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid and the tax revenue currently expected to pay for the entitlements.

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Transcript of Question to Rep. Hoyer and Response:

Reporter: Would you consider raising the retirement age?
 
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), House majority leader: What I have said, in a speech that was pretty specific, was that I think everything needs to be on the table. We need to bring down the deficit, we need to stabilize our fiscal posture and we need to look at all the expenditures – I’ve indicated entitlements; I’ve indicated defense spending; I’ve indicated revenues.
 
Rep. Hoyer: They all need to be on the table. If we’re going to be serious in America about stabilizing and getting back to a fiscally balanced posture, in which we were under the Clinton administration, then we will have to be serious and look at all the options that will help us get there, while at the same time making sure that the selection of those options continues to grow the economy, because if you don’t grow the economy, you will not get back to fiscal stability. That is an absolute key – that’s why I’ve said in the short-term, continuing to invest in job growth and economic expansion is critical if you’re going to get to fiscal balance.