Transcript: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton on the NCPSSM’s proposals for Social Security reforms

Remarks by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) on the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare’s report on women and Social Security (May 11, 2012):

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) SOURCE:

“This briefing should be particularly welcomed in the halls of the Congress. It’s a beautiful cover and a very readable – very readable – report. It’s not like your government reports.


“It’s a report meant to be read not only by members of Congress but by the larger public – a public that is increasingly female, that needs to focus on Social Security.

“So I want to thank the three organizations who are responsible for this report: the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare, the National Organization for Women, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research assembled here to give you a briefing is a lot of expertise that I think all of us will find enlightening.

“Particularly since the Social Security system as we know it is still about yesterday’s workforce. The genius of the system is that it has lasted so well and so long and is the most beloved of federal programs.

“Yet even the best of federal programs come to a point – and Social Security seems to be past that point – where one has to look at what its today challenges are.

“The great challenge of the feminist movement was all on the front end of the workforce. Women’s work life, especially as some women who were getting a work life for the first time in the post-World War II generation. The kinds of work were still a seminal issue because the sex segregation in the workforce builds out finally at the end of a woman’s work life when she comes to Social Security and other ways of living out her life with some comfort.

“And then of course the pay gap, which at the front end of the workforce has always fascinated women and have been a driver of changes they want.

“The fascination with opening up men’s jobs, for example, to women has had a fair amount of success as you see the doctors, the lawyers, and the rest of them.

“But what I think is important about this report is that it focuses on the mainstream woman – the average woman. The working woman who may be single or married but also increasingly today, because of the longevity of women in particular but also of men, has responsibility for aging parents or relatives. Her own life is even longer. Divorce or widowhood is almost inevitable for most women.

“And so the smaller salaries result in smaller retirement and smaller savings.

“For women of color, of course, they are but a prototype of these women. They stand out not only because they emphasize the disparities that this report seeks to cure because they’re most likely not to have pensions or even 401k even after a life of hard work.

“So I think the report’s focus on what most people as they think of Social Security today have not yet focus upon is extremely important.

“And I want to say – as the President has indicated that he supports same sex marriage this week – that I’m pleased that the report also does not leave out any who would be affected or should be affected by changes in Social Security.

“Finally, let me say that I hope that as you hear the briefing today you are not deterred by the tone of the Congress or what is happening in the Congress now.

“I remind you that the Social Security system itself is an innovation that came out of great crisis. That the generation that created the system and is responsible for those innovations decided not just to fix the Depression but to fix the economy and to assure security long after the Depression, and indeed they have. It’s an extraordinary tribute to the innovations that came out of tough times. So I suggest that we look at this report in light of the innovations that are also possible and not let the Congress stop us. Make the Congress do the right thing.

“Thank you very much.”


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