Here in Appalachian Ohio, we are blessed to live in a region dotted by small towns and communities. Our everyday lives embody small town values -- distinctly American values. We know our neighbors and care about our communities. Many of us -- myself included -- graduated from the same schools as both our parents and our children. And when our parents, relatives, and neighbors grow old after putting in a full life's work, we want to see them live out their golden years in comfort. These values, combined with an abiding faith in what we know to be good and right, form the rock-solid foundation of our lives.
We believe -- because we have lived -- in the promise given to us by the American Dream. We believe that by working hard, doing right by our loved ones, and playing by the rules, we can raise and provide for a family, own a home, and retire with the resources to live comfortably. Our Founding Fathers risked their lives and their livelihoods to create and secure this dream for us, and we must continue fighting to keep it from slipping away.
But today, millions of Ohioans are in jeopardy of losing their rights to that dream. With over 1.5 million of Ohio's residents over the age of 65 -- many right here in Ohio's 18th Congressional District -- Social Security provides a lifeline to millions of our neighbors across the state. And it is unconscionable that this lifeline has been perennially under attack from extremist ideologues that are fundamentally out of touch with the needs of our seniors.
These extremists have long sought to dismantle Social Security as we know it. Just a few years ago, we heard the call to privatize this crucial program -- a risky plan by every standard. Given our current economic catastrophe -- caused in large part by the same advocates of this risky plan -- Ohio's seniors would have lost everything had they put their retirement security in the stock market.
Luckily, the proposals to do so were roundly rejected, and cooler heads prevailed.
There are still some, though, including House Republican Leader John Boehner, that continue to push for this. Most recently, the Republican leader proposed to put our American Dream in jeopardy by raising the Social Security retirement age to age 70. This plan is an insult to every Ohioan who has put in his or her time working hard under the promise that they would be able to retire at age 65. We owe it to our neighbors to make good on that promise.
The bottom line is that this comes down to a question of priorities. My priorities will always be with our working families, our seniors, and our middle class. Let me be clear: while there are many areas where I work across the aisle and share common ground with my Republican colleagues, I do not support this risky plan to slash benefits and force Ohioans into more years of labor. They deserve better than that, and we owe it to them to be better than that. These Ohioans represent the backbone of our great state, and it would be a serious betrayal of their trust to sell them out.