March 17,2000

Roth Urges Repeal of Social Security Earnings Limit in GOP Radio Address

WASHINGTON -- Senate Finance Committee Chairman William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE) delivered the Republican's Saturday radio address and urged speedy repeal of the Social Security earnings limit. The following is the text of the address:

"Good morning, this is Senator Bill Roth of Delaware, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. This morning I want to talk to you about an important bill that will be voted on by the Senate next week. This bill will remove a penalty currently imposed on working seniors, the so-called "earnings limit" on Social Security benefits.

"Social Security is a wonderful program. Now and in the future, both for today's seniors and for our children, Social Security is the foundation of a secure retirement. Social Security has lifted millions from poverty. And Social Security is especially important to women.

"But the Social Security earnings limit discourages seniors from working. Seniors can have their Social Security checks reduced by as much as one-third when they work. As a result, many seniors choose to work less or stop working altogether.

"The Social Security earnings limit was enacted 65 years ago to encourage older workers to retire during the hard times and high unemployment of the Great Depression. But today, with Americans living longer and the tightest labor market in 30 years, this rule is not only outdated but actually harmful to both seniors and the economy. Repealing the earnings limit will help improve the retirement security of seniors by allowing them to earn more and save longer.

"Repealing the earnings limit is also excellent economic policy. Today, our nation's economic growth depends in large part on the number of Americans working and the productivity of each worker. But, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, we are beginning to suffer from a serious worker shortage that threatens our economic expansion. And in just five years, in 2005, when baby boomers begin to retire, we will need a sharp increase in the number of older Americans working just to maintain the nation's labor force. We do not need disincentives that discourage some of our nation's most experienced workers from working.

"Abolishing the earnings limit will allow us to protect the nation's economic gains of the past 17 years. It will not only help to raise the standard of living for many of our seniors, but help keep the living standards high for all Americans by encouraging future generations of experienced and talented workers to keep working.

"Finally, repealing the earnings limit is good government. The earning limit is complex and difficult for the government to administer, costs more than $100 million per year, and is responsible for more than 70 percent of Social Security payment errors. These payment errors are a large source of frustration for seniors.

"In short, repealing the current earnings limit is good and fair for seniors, it is good for America and it is time to act. Next week I look forward to bringing this legislation to the floor of the United States Senate. I am confident that the Senate will approve this measure overwhelmingly.

"In closing, I am very proud of what the Republican Congress has been able to accomplish over the past five years. We balanced the budget and have begun to pay down the public debt. We strengthened Medicare and expanded health care, especially for children and people with disabilities. We provided new educational opportunities. We fixed a broken welfare system. We cut taxes and reformed the IRS. And we have protected the Social Security Trust Fund, ensuring that Social Security taxes are used only for Social Security.

"With the approval of this bill next week, we will add one more significant accomplishment to this list. And we will help prepare Social Security and the nation for the 21st century.

"Thanks for listening."