Washington, DC—Tonight, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) responded to President Bush’s State of the Union address. Congressman Higgins focused on Social Security and President Bush’s proposal to privatize the system, which would result in massive benefit cuts, and would wreak havoc on rural towns and cities, such as those in Chautauqua County. Congressman Higgins also focused on the ongoing middle class squeeze in Western New York, and the Bush administration’s inaction when it comes to looking out for the hard working people in Chautauqua County.
“President Bush begins his second term with a risky proposal which will cut Social Security benefits,” said Congressman Higgins. “The privatization proposal weakens Social Security—making the problem worse, not better. Privatization will do nothing to improve the financial health of Social Security, and it turns a guaranteed benefit into a guaranteed gamble. Social Security needs a solid source of funding, but the Republican plan will drain more than $2 trillion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund in the next 10 years. The Republicans have raided it and used the money for big tax breaks for wealthy corporate interests. Congress should not be allowed to spend Social Security taxes on anything but Social Security benefits, and should be required to pay Social Security back the money Republicans took out of the Trust Fund. I am deeply concerned that in Chautauqua County, the economic impact of reducing benefits to our seniors would be devastating. This bad plan would hit Chautauqua especially hard since the older population there is more dependent on Social Security than those living in bigger cities.
“While we must acknowledge and address the challenges facing Social Security in order to help save, strengthen, and secure it for the future, cutting benefits is not the answer; minor adjustments are. Every American worker should get the benefits they paid for. We must continue to work to secure pension benefits, and make it easier for workers to save for retirement. Social Security is a proven success. Benefits have been paid on time and in full every single month for almost 70 years. Without Social Security, more than 50 percent of our seniors would be living in poverty, with seniors in rural Chautauqua County being hit particularly hard. Rather than rushing to dismantle the Social Security system that has worked for millions, we need to make sure that we address the long-term challenge in a way that truly strengthens Social Security.
“President Bush and the Republicans in Congress have continually neglected the 5.7% unemployment rate in Chautauqua County. They have forgotten the struggling rural communities in Western New York, who put in an honest day’s work, many of whom don’t get nearly enough in return. My Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives have time and again voted against rural families. They have voted for billions in corporate tax breaks. They have voted 25 times against the child tax credit for 6.5 million families. They have voted for $350 billion tax cut for the rich while giving 50 million households nothing. And they will vote to cut Social Security benefits, and ruin a Democratic program which has worked in Western New York and across the whole country throughout the past 70 years.
“I pledge to continue to fight to help the middle class and rural communities in my district to achieve financial security. I will work with my Democratic colleagues in Congress to promote prosperity in Chautauqua County by creating new jobs, enacting middle class tax relief, and rewarding companies that create jobs at home. We will work to provide tax cuts for the middle class, make America more competitive in a changing global marketplace, assure access to capital for small business, and reduce the budget deficit with common sense “pay as you go” budget rules.
“As a new member of the 109th Congress, I will fight for the key values that build a strong and secure middle class: national security, prosperity, community, fairness, accountability and opportunity. On every issue our nation faces, I will look to ensure that the policies which are pursued are consistent with the values we cherish.”