This week, the debate in Washington was over whether or not we should extend and expand a payroll tax cut that would have cost more than $240 billion in a year.
But the debate ignored one simple fact: Americans pay for one thing with our payroll tax.
Social Security isn't just another government program. It was established in 1935 to provide economic security for our nation's seniors who worked hard and earned their retirement benefits. They worked their whole lives to create a better and greater America.
Right now, Social Security is in trouble. By 2037, according to the trustees, if we don't do anything, benefits for everyone will have to be cut by 22 percent.
And yet we're talking about digging a deeper hole by destabilizing its funding.
All in return for what? A temporary measure that has already cost nearly $120 billion and has at best created few, if any, jobs.
In the real world, when policy doesn't work, you stop and try something else. Apparently, in Washington, you double down.
That doesn't make any sense to me and it doesn't make sense to the good people of West Virginia.
If the payroll tax cut were to be extended as it stands now, the average family in West Virginia would pay $14 less per week. For a lot of people, that's a lot of money.
But the few West Virginians who even realize that they're getting that help say that they would gladly give it up in return for a reliable Social Security safety net or for meaningful tax reform that cuts rates across the board and ensures that every American, especially the wealthy, will start paying their fair share.
Let me be clear. As a country, we can't expect that Social Security will remain secure if we keep telling Americans that we don't have to pay for it and that is exactly the conclusion people will reach if we keep reducing their contributions.
We tried this payroll tax cut last year, and I supported it. But I will not double down on a failed policy especially one that jeopardizes the future of Social Security.
As for taxes, don't get me wrong. I don't want to see Americans paying higher tax rates.
I simply want a commonsense tax system that ensures that everyone pays their fair share, especially the wealthy, who have benefited the most from our failed tax system.
I want tax reform that lowers rates for everyone as we close the loopholes, credits and offsets that allow some corporations and some Americans to avoid paying their fair share.
At this critical moment in our history we must get our financial house in order, and letting Americans believe that we don't have to pay for Social Security is wrong.
So, I did not vote for either the Democratic or the Republican proposal to extend the payroll tax cuts.
Looking forward, for the sake our nation, I hope that we will begin to work on a proposal that makes the hard decisions, while also protecting the programs and commitments we value as a nation. The best path forward, I believe, is based on the bipartisan framework and recommendations outlined in the Bowles-Simpson proposal, which strives to cut our deficits in responsible and balanced manner.
It is not perfect. No plan is. I do not agree with everything it proposes, but no plan can be everything to everyone.
But I will continue to urge our President and the leadership of both Chambers to support any and all efforts to enact these recommendations.
I don't want to be part of the first generation that leaves this great nation in worse shape for the next generation. And I don't think that any Member of Congress or our President wants to fail the next generation, either.
I ask that we all remember the great opportunity we have before us to do what is right.