August 2010

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Ensuring Another 75 Years of Social Security

More Americans are saying they don’t trust the government, but there is one federal program that has remained consistently popular since it was first signed into law 75 years ago this month: Social Security.

The National Academy of Social Insurance finds that two-thirds of Americans support strengthening the program. And it keeps millions of retirees, children and disabled workers out of poverty.

In the years before Social Security, more than half of the elderly were impoverished, with retirees having to rely on whatever savings they might have accumulated or on the kindness of family.

The crisis of the Great Depression, which wiped out millions in savings and pension funds, pushed the federal government to take action. President Roosevelt wasn’t interested in creating another welfare program; he wanted a system of social insurance that would reward hard work and protect Americans against disability and death.

A swath of new Tea Party-inspired GOP candidates have gone on record in support of privatizing Social Security and many GOP leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner, are looking to resurrect President Bush’s failed pro-privatization plans. Imagine what would have happened if these types of schemes had been in place when the economy crashed in 2008.

Social Security opponents like to equate the national deficit with the long-term health of the program. The reality is Social Security has been running a big surplus since Congress made the last "fix" to the program in 1983. If no changes are made, says retirement expert Mark Miller, the surplus will run dry by 2037, which means there would still be enough to cover 75 percent of benefits.

There are reforms that Congress must make to guarantee the future health of the Social Security trust fund, but the American people aren’t looking for the wholesale dismantling of our country’s greatest social program. This November we need to make sure our votes go to officials who are committed to ensuring another 75 years of Social Security.

Also: Lee: Cutting the Unemployment Lifeline

Edwin D. Hill
International President