Social Security has just turned 76. Although the program has been forced to fend off attacks over the past year, we’re proud to say it’s still here and working hard for the American people.
Here are just a few of the gifts that Social Security has given us in its 76 years of service:
- The near-elimination of elderly poverty. In 1935, half of Americans aged 65 and up lived in poverty. By 2009, even in the midst of the recession, only 8.9% of seniors lived in poverty. That’s the lowest poverty rate of any age group in the country.
- The end of the poorhouse. Prior to Social Security, older workers had few options to support themselves as they aged. The unluckiest of them all were cast into poorhouses, and endured dismal conditions, without proper sanitation, privacy, medical care, or nutrition. The last poorhouses closed in the 1950s, less than 20 years after Social Security began sending out benefits.
- The most successful anti-poverty program in history. Social Security lifts an estimated 20 million people out of poverty, according to a 2010 report. Of those, 13 million are retirees, but the figure also includes over 1 million children and 5 million adults.
- A home without your mother-in-law. In 1929, an estimated 50% of those 65 and up relied entirely on relatives and friends for support. For those older than 75, the figure jumps to 57%. Social Security has allowed many today’s seniors to live independently in retirement. In fact, only 6.5% of seniors in 2007 lived with their children.
With all that we have received from Social Security since its birth in 1935, the real question is what will our lawmakers give Social Security and its future beneficiaries? Here’s a message you can send to your member of Congress so that they will commemorate Social Security’s 76 years of service the right way:
- Social Security belongs to us who contribute to the program, not to politicians in Washington who want to use it as a piggy bank.
- The Super Committee in Congress should keep its hands off Social Security. Social Security does not contribute a penny to the deficit. It should not be cut to reduce the deficit.
- Social Security should be strengthened, not cut. That is why I oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits. The retirement age should not be raised. Social Security’s cost of living adjustment (COLA) should not be reduced.