WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) defended the Social Security program and opposed the reappointment of Dr. Charles Blahous – who is employed by the Koch Brothers-funded Mercatus Center and authored President George W. Bush’s privatization plan – to serve as a public trustee of the Social Security Trust Funds. In May Brown, who serves as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, called on Committee leadership to hold a vote in Committee and not to use Blahous’ status as a “privileged nominee” to send his nomination straight to the floor. Today, during a markup on his nomination, Brown urged his Finance Committee colleagues to oppose Blahous’ nomination based on his record of undermining Social Security and promoting a political agenda aimed at dismantling the program.
“This committee is considering putting someone in a position of public trust who helped write the blueprint for privatizing Social Security, which would hand the retirement security of American seniors over to Wall Street,” said Brown. “We cannot allow Dr. Blahous to continue using his title of ‘public trustee’ to push an agenda that would rob seniors of the retirement security they’ve earned.”
Trustees are tasked with the critical responsibility of reporting annually to Congress on the financial status of the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds and acting in the best interest of both current participants, retired beneficiaries, and beneficiaries with disabilities. In public statements since becoming a public trustee, Blahous has undermined Social Security by promoting a political agenda outside of the purview of the Board. An individual with an agenda to dismantle Social Security should not also be in the position of representing Social Security recipients and their interests.
Blahous served as the executive director of President Bush’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security, which proposed partial privatization of the program. Since then, while serving as a Trustee, he has made a number of public statements indicating that he would be willing to make cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; raise the retirement age; and allow seniors and Americans with disabilities to go without a cost of living adjustment (COLA). He also indicated support for a House of Representatives rule change that would pit the needs of retirees and beneficiaries with disabilities against each other. Most troubling is the fact that Blahous’ job as a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center – where he has been identified as a public trustee – involves his writing partisan reports questioning the integrity of Social Security’s structure.
Brown is leading the effort to ensure American workers and families have access to affordable savings and investment options. As ranking member of the Senate Banking Committee and the Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions, and Family Policy, Brown has used his committee platforms to advocate for strengthening Social Security and improving the private retirement savings system for all Americans.
Full text of Brown’s statement at today’s Finance Committee hearing as prepared for delivery are below.
Statement as Prepared for Delivery
Finance Committee Nominations Markup
June 8, 2016
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Last week, President Obama had it right when he said we should work to expand and strengthen Social Security.
Yet instead, this committee is considering putting someone in a position of public trust who helped write the blueprint for privatizing Social Security, which would hand the retirement security of American seniors over to Wall Street.
Dr. Blahous is employed at the Mercatus Center – the right wing think tank funded by the Koch Brothers. He has spent his time there writing partisan reports questioning the integrity of Social Security.
He’s argued time and again for cutting benefits and raising the retirement age, all under the guise of so-called “reform.”
He helped promote claims that Social Security Disability Insurance was in financial peril, and targeted workers with disabilities.
He helped write President George W. Bush’s failed plan to privatize the program – and leave seniors at the mercy of Wall Street whims.
As a private citizen, he is entitled to promote any misguided idea he sees fit. The trouble is that Dr. Blahous promoted many of these ideas while using the title of “public trustee”. This politicizes what should be an apolitical position.
Dr. Blahous leaves the impression that he speaks for the Social Security Administration.
He does not.
He leaves the impression that he speaks for the public.
He must not.
We cannot allow him to continue using his title of “public trustee” to push an agenda that would rob seniors of the retirement security they’ve earned.
At a time when Americans are facing less certainty in retirement than ever, we cannot enable someone who pushes a partisan, political agenda to hide behind the title of “public trustee.”
We cannot allow a few billionaires like the Koch Brothers to stack the government agency tasked with protecting Social Security with their allies.
And we cannot allow political operatives to work within the Social Security Administration to erode the American people’s trust in the foundation of working families’ retirement security.
Think what would have happened had Dr. Blahous’s plan succeeded in 2005, and Americans’ Social Security had been invested in the stock market in 2008 and 2009.
Families’ Social Security safety net – the one thing they can count on when their 401Ks lose value or the housing market crashes – would have been wiped out.
We will not allow that to happen.
I hope my colleagues will do the right thing and join me in rejecting an ideological and partisan nominee.