As Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. Thank you all for being here.
Every hearing we hold here at the House Budget Committee is meant to examine important issues, ask pertinent questions, and, hopefully, get answers that can help us solve the fiscal and economic challenges facing our nation. With today’s hearing, we are seeking more than answers. We are seeking a unique perspective that will help inform our larger, long-term goal of improving the nation’s health, retirement, and economic security programs.
In July, our committee embarked on a new initiative called Restoring the Trust for All Generations. It is aimed at raising awareness about the fiscal and policy challenges inherent in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, as well as other automatic spending programs like income support and educational assistance. At the same time we are engaging the American people about how we solve those challenges so that we can build a critical mass of support that will lead to the positive solutions necessary to make sure vital programs like Medicare and Social Security are saved and strengthened for today’s beneficiaries and future generations.
As currently structured, these programs are unsustainable – this means they will NOT be sustained – inefficient and not nearly as effective as they could or should be in delivering assistance. As automatic spending programs, they represent a two-thirds majority and growing portion of all annual spending, and it is essentially uncontrolled by Congress. This is at a time when the nation’s fiscal trajectory is itself unsustainable – with massive levels of debt and anemic economic growth that will lead to lower standards of living and less opportunity for hard-working families.
Those who will bear the full brunt of these circumstances are today’s younger Americans – many of whom are increasingly aware that it is becoming much more difficult to achieve the American Dream through the traditional formula of determination, hard work, and education. They are a generation of Americans who are putting off buying homes and starting families because they face mountains of student loans and fewer job prospects, and a generation of Americans who has lost trust that we, their representatives, will make sure these programs are there for them.
In fact, they have little confidence that the nation’s health and retirement programs like Medicare and Social Security will be there for them when they retire – even though they are paying into these programs. A recent Gallup poll showed that 51 percent of non-retired Americans do not believe they will receive a Social Security benefit – 64 percent of those 18 to 29 do not believe they will receive Social Security, and 63 percent of those 30 to 49 hold the same view.
But you needn’t take my word for it. Today we have put together a panel of witnesses who are all under the age of thirty-five. They are here because they are a part of this Millennial generation that represents the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that is vital to solving the tremendous fiscal and economic challenges we face, but most importantly, they’re here because they want to make sure the American Dream that their parents and grandparents built their lives on is there for them and their children and granchildren, too.
The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in today’s younger generation. This is what’s led them to create some of the most innovative technologies. Their hard-work and ideas are empowering new discoveries to improve our health, transportation and communication systems along with many other aspects of our lives and areas of our economy. Pull out your smart phone and browse through your apps. How many of those have been developed by a 20-something at a small start-up or in a college dorm room? How might that same spirit of innovation contribute to solving the larger fiscal and economic challenges we face as a nation? How might today’s younger generation help us find the right policies to restore the trust in those vital programs that have provided health, retirement and economic security for so many Americans over the past decades?
By promoting innovative thinking, we are creating the willingness to deliver more choices and greater flexibility in these programs and encourage greater personal financial security and self-sufficiency in an economy that delivers more opportunity for more Americans to achieve their dreams.
We should, and must, strive to do better. That’s why we are holding this first hearing as part of our Restoring the Trust for All Generations initiative. My goal is that this hearing will stay focused on the entrepreneurial spirit of young Americans, not politics. These witnesses have travelled from all across the country to share their thoughts. I encourage all of our members to engage in a conversation about how we can harness the innovative spirit of Millennials to make our government work better for the American people.
We face some daunting fiscal and economic challenges. We have vital programs that are headed toward insolvency. America has overcome huge challenges in the past by tapping into our unrivaled innovative spirit and faith in the ingenuity of our people – folks like today’s witnesses.
First, we have Saira Blair, a delegate in the West Virginia House of Representatives. At just 19 years-old, she is the youngest state legislator in the country. She was motivated to run for office by her concerns over the nation’s mounting national debt and, particularly, what it means for her generation.
Next, we have Jared Meyer, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and co-author of Disinherited – a book on how many of the current policies in Washington are failing younger Americans.
In addition, joining us is Rebecca Vallas, the Director of Policy at the Center for American Progress’s Poverty to Prosperity Program.
Finally, Evan Baehr is with us – he’s a young entrepreneur and co-founder of Able, an online lender to small businesses that is helping lead the technology revolution in this country.
I look forward to hearing from all of today’s witnesses and their unique perspectives.
Thank you all for being here.
I’m pleased to yield to the ranking member, Mr. van Hollen.