Happy Birthday Social Security
Today marks the 77th birthday of Social Security - the most successful government program in U.S. history. On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the Social Security Act. Social Security pays benefits to retirees, widows, the children of the deceased and the disabled. The Act was an attempt to limit what were seen as dangers in the modern American life, including old age, poverty, unemployment, and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. By signing this Act into law, President Roosevelt became the first president to advocate federal assistance for the elderly.
Social Security is the most successful anti-poverty program in U.S. history. At the time the Social Act passed, poverty among the elderly exceeded 50%. At the present time, the poverty rate for Americans over age 65 has been reduced to 9%.
Despite Social Security's undeniable success, the right wing of the GOP has always been opposed to this program. One of the biggest talking points from the radical right is that Social Security is going broke and that we can't afford it. As early as 1936, GOP Presidential nominee Alf Landon said that: "If the present compulsory insurance plan remains in force, our old people are only too apt to find the cupboard bare." George W. Bush predicted in 1978 that Social Security would go broke in 1988 unless Congress privatized the system. Moreover, present day Republicans regularly predict - as they have for over 75 years - that Social Security will go broke.
Obviously, all of these previous Republican predictions of doom and gloom about Social Security have proven to be wrong and are still wrong. Social Security is in a position to pay out all of the promised benefits until 2033. If the Congress does absolutely nothing, Social Security would still be able to pay out 78% of the promised benefits beginning in 2034. However, simply lifting the earnings cap on Social Security taxes would insure the financial viability of the program for the indefinite future. Similarly, Senator Kerrey's Social Security plan - which consists of a combination of modest benefit cuts and tax increases - would also enable us to keep our promises to senior citizens.
Social Security is wildly popular because it has been so successful. However, that success is a danger to the agenda of the GOP and it's corporate allies. The last thing the GOP wants is a program that proves the government can do things that benefit the American people. That's why the GOP has nominated a Presidential ticket determined to privatize Social Security. If want to celebrate more birthdays for Social Security in the future, we Democrats need to remain engaged and work hard for our candidates who will defend this program that has helped millions of Americans from the ongoing attacks from the radical right.