(WASHINGTON, DC) -- Senator Patty Murray this morning joined the Democratic Women of the Senate to declare her intention to fight to preserve the guaranteed benefit provided by Social Security for generations to come. Social Security is especially important to women, Murray said, and it's protection is essential as the debate on President Bush's proposals moves forward.

Citing the resounding success of the program in its 70 year history, Murray laid out a series of values and principles that must be preserved as Social Security reform discussions move forward. At the same time, she declared her strong opposition to President Bush's risky privatization scheme, saying it would do nothing to save the system while gambling the Social Security's guaranteed benefit on the stock market.

Senator Murray's complete remarks follow:

A few short years after the 1932 stock market crash and the onset of the Great Depression, one of our nation's greatest leaders – Franklin Delano Roosevelt – set out to create a program to provide peace of mind and a sense of security to America's retirees. During his crusade to create the program, FDR said, "There is no tragedy in growing old, but there is tragedy in growing old without means of support."

The program he created is to this day the single greatest social insurance program in our nation's history. Social Security, as it would be called, has been a resounding success by keeping millions of people out of poverty.

Just months before the new program was enacted, FDR laid out his vision of how this most important program should be implemented.

He said: "We can never insure one-hundred percent of the population against one-hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life. But we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age. This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built, but is by no means complete.... It is...a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness." Those were the words of FDR in August, 1935

But today, this cornerstone, this basic American value, is now under attack.

President Bush is currently traveling the country saying Social Security is in crisis and that it needs to be radically restructured. But I rise today to reaffirm the values and spirit FDR laid out 70 years ago.

Social Security has pulled seniors from poverty and put millions of retiring minds at ease. America's insurance program is a guaranteed benefit that all Americans can count on.

It's a promise that if you work hard, you'll have some security when you retire or if you become disabled. It's a promise that seniors won't have to live in poverty. And it's a promise that if your spouse passes on, you will continue to have the support and security you need.

And of course the program is about more than security -- it's about community. In America, we believe that it's important to take care of the generation that came before. It's important to guarantee them a quality of life. And it's important that we guarantee benefits after a lifetime of hard work.

But I'm very concerned that President Bush's "restructuring" will imperil the security of all Americans – from young workers retiring in decades to seniors retiring today. The problem with his plan is that:

  • It's the end of guaranteed benefits.
  • It does nothing to fix the long-term issues the system faces.
  • It adds trillions of dollars to our national debt.
  • It's dangerous.

We cannot, and will not, let President Bush tear apart Social Security.

While some are trying to enrich Wall Street or push an ideology or force market experiments on senior citizens, our priority in this discussion should be ensuring that we're doing right by those who rely on Social Security – from current workers to retirees, the disabled and widows.

Current and future retirees need someone to stand up for them, and if I see something that's going to hurt our workers, our families, and our seniors, I'm going to fight it with everything I've got.

Any discussion about Social Security must meet certain criteria if it means to be productive. You could call it a test – and any proposal we discuss must pass this test if it wants to move from this body.

We must:

  • Preserve Social Security's guaranteed benefit
  • Preserve Social Security's protections for workers when they are disabled
  • Protect against benefit reductions for women, minorities and all others
  • Protect our budget from ever growing deficits

Anything short of this would be an unnecessary, dangerous gamble unworthy of this important insurance program.

While we’re just beginning this discussion, my female colleagues and I have worked for years to ensure some basic principles are followed as we move forward. The promise of Social Security is especially important to women because women face unique challenges in retirement. We know that women make less money than men, women leave the workforce to raise families, women live longer, and women are more likely to suffer from a chronic health condition.

Even with those special challenges, Social Security keeps millions of older women out of poverty. Its benefit formulas are tilted to give a greater rate of return for lower wage workers like women and minorities. If the President privatizes Social Security, he would destroy the guaranteed benefit that low-wage earners need in their retirement years.

We also know that Social Security isn't just a retirement program. As I've said, it protects disabled workers and their families. If Social Security is privatized, what happens to a worker who is disabled and can't contribute to her account? Today, under Social Security, that worker is protected. But there's no guarantee under the Bush plan.

President Bush could undo the progressive structure that older women depend on. This is one reform that would have disastrous results, and I know we will not stand for it.

Under this Administration, many things we take for granted from overtime pay to community police to safe drinking water have been threatened. Now President Bush wants to dismantle Social Security. I am here today to say that some things are just too important to American families. Providing real security to all Americans is a basic value worth protecting. We will make sure that President Bush doesn't gamble that security and break the promise Social Security keeps for millions of women and their families.