Now don’t go getting all cross-eyed bored seeing that Social Security header up there. Crabby Old Lady is talking about a CELEBRATION today.
Seventy years ago Sunday, on 14 August 1935 - when the U.S. was in the depths of the Great Depression and about 25 percent of the workforce was unemployed - President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.
He said then,
"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…poverty-ridden old age.”
And so it has done. It is the most successful social program in the history of the world. Millions upon millions of people in the past have been saved from living below the poverty line thanks to the Social Security Act and so have millions of people today.
To give you an idea of how many people benefit, 415 million Social Security numbers have been issued since 1935, and 5.5 million are added every year.
In the beginning, it paid only retirement benefits. In 1939, Congress added dependents of retired workers and survivors of covered workers who die before retirement. In 1954, the Act was amended to cover the disabled. And in 1971, the Census Bureau reported that for the first time in history, the aged were no longer the poorest segment of the population.
President Bush and the current Republican Congress have so far been unsuccessful in trying to convince the public that siphoning off money from Social Security into private accounts will make everyone in America millionaires by the time they retire. And don’t you believe them about that when they gear up the propaganda machine again.
Crabby has recounted in this series the many reasons privatization is a terrible idea. Another recently came to her attention: private pension funds are evaporating through bankruptcies and mergers. Think of all the employees of the various Enron-type scandals too, who have lost much of their private pensions. Where would they be, especially the older workers who don't have the years of employment in front of them to recoup these losses, without the Social Security safety net?
Congress is off on its summer vacation, but when they return after Labor Day, a House Republican plan for private accounts may come to the floor for debate and vote, and Crabby Old Lady will need to rev us all up again in opposition. But that is weeks away.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, take a moment to celebrate this grand old lady of social programs. Bake her a cake, sing her a song and give her your thanks. Wish her a happy 70th birthday and many more decades to come.