September 18, 2000
Congress Must Work for Seniors
Last week, I received an award for my support of "senior friendly" legislation in this Congress from the 60 Plus Association, a non-partisan group that focuses on issues important to seniors. While I am pleased to have earned this distinction, it is important to recognize the tremendous amount of work yet to be done in Congress for older Americans.
Seniors represent the fastest growing demographic group in our nation. More Americans are living longer, often for several decades after retirement. While many enjoy good health and financial security during their later years, millions have limited means. These seniors survived the Depression, fought World War II, and created the prosperity and freedom we enjoy today. Congress needs to honor our nation’s commitments to them.
First, Congress needs to protect the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. Our seniors funded Social Security and Medicare throughout their working lives, and they deserve to know that their funds will be spent only to pay benefits. Unfortunately, revenue-hungry politicians have not hesitated to raid the Trust Funds to pay for pork-barrel projects. Last year alone, Congress took $21 billion from Medicare to fund other programs. Accordingly, I supported the "Social Security and Medicare Safe Deposit Box Act" earlier this year, which mandates that additional revenues from the two programs can be used only for benefits payments. I also introduced the "Social Security Preservation Act" during this Congress. The Act mandates that Social Security funds can be used only to pay benefits, making it illegal to use them for any other purpose. Congress and the administration must support both these bills so Americans can have faith that their retirement funds are secure.
Next, Congress must work to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Many seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, are unable to afford the expensive medications they need every month. Unfortunately, nearly every proposal coming out of Washington attempts to lower drug costs through price-fixing (which inevitably leads to rationing of drugs), or through subsidies to insurance or pharmaceutical companies. My legislation, the "Pharmaceutical Freedom Act," makes prescription drugs more affordable by providing seniors with a tax credit for drug expenses so they can spend their resources on needed medications. Also, my legislation eliminates needless government regulations and barriers to competition which drive up drug prices. Congress must remove bureaucratic regulations that prevent America’s seniors from enjoying lower prices available from Internet and foreign pharmacies. The key to lowering drug prices is to create a true, competitive free market for prescription drugs. Additionally, my legislation returns control of health care dollars to our seniors and their doctors, rather than federal bureaucrats.
Finally, Congress must pass real tax relief for seniors. Earlier this year, I supported the successful repeal of the Social Security earnings limitation, which frees older Americans to continue to work without endangering their eligibility for benefits. We should go a step further, however, and stop taxing older Americans' income. I voted to repeal the 1993 tax increase on Social Security benefits. More importantly I have introduced legislation to end Social Security taxes altogether. We never taxed Social Security benefits before 1984. Why are we taking taxes out of a widow’s monthly $600 benefits check now? Such double taxation is unconscionable, especially considering that many seniors rely on Social Security to provide all or most of their monthly income.
Finally, Congress must support seniors by eliminating the death tax. Although this tax accounts for only a tiny portion of federal revenues (about 1.5%), it has a devastating impact on many seniors and their families. When Congress ends the death tax, seniors no longer will worry about losing their farms, small businesses, and savings to the government.