By Dennis Purifoy
Moore Social Security Manager
In 1935, Mussolini invaded Abyssinia and the Nazis repudiated the Treaty of Versailles. “Mutiny on the Bounty” was a top movie draw and “Porgy and Bess” was on Broadway.
James J. Braddock outpointed Max Baer for the worldweight championship and the Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, 4 games to 2. And on Aug. 14, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act.
In the 75 years since the Social Security Act was enacted, Social Security has become a major part of the economic health of the country. Social Security reaches almost every family in the United States and at some point, touches the lives of nearly all Americans.
It not only helps older Americans, but also workers who become disabled and families in which a spouse or parent dies. Today, about 159 million people work and pay Social Security taxes. More than 53 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. In 2009 alone, those benefits came to about $675 billion.
In some counties in the United States, as much as 30 percent of the population receives benefits and those benefits make up as much as 20 percent of the local economy. The payments help individuals and families to stay afloat, but the byproduct is that these payments also help keep the economy going.
At the signing of the Social Security Act, President Roosevelt said, “We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 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 the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”
Social Security has succeeded on many fronts. For example, when the law passed, most senior citizens were dependent on others, but now the poverty rate for seniors is no worse than the population as a whole.
It is important to note that Social Security has changed many times over the years to adapt to new conditions. And Social Security must be change again.
As Michael J. Astrue, commissioner of Social Security, said when presenting the latest report on Social Security solvency, “It’s time for us to make the tough choices that we know we need to make. I applaud President Obama for his creation of the Deficit Commission so we can start the national discussion needed to ensure that Social Security remains a foundation of economic security for our children and grandchildren.”
Changes are needed because without any changes, the trust funds would be depleted in 2037, with only 78 cents coming in for every $1 obligated in benefits.
Nevertheless, it is fitting at Social Security’s 75th anniversary to look back on what has been one of the most successful programs in U.S. history.
Our website at www.socialsecurity.gov has a special section on the anniversary and even has a place where you can share your Social Security story. How has Social Security made a difference in your life and the lives of your family and friends?
For example, tell us how it felt to receive your first retirement payment or how survivors or disability benefits have helped you.
While you’re online, you can look at Social Security history, get answers to your Social Security questions, see informational fact sheets, get an estimate of your retirement check and much more.