Retirement security advocates, lawmakers and hundreds of SEIU retireescelebrated the 80th birthday of one of the most vital programs in our country earlier this month: Social Security.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law Aug.14, 1935, to address elder poverty in our nation. Since its inception, Social Security has been the single most successful U.S. government program in history, keeping 22 million Americans out of poverty.
Although Social Security’s official anniversary is now behind us, here are four reasons why we should continue to celebrate this program all year:
1. Social Security helps keep many of our parents and grandparents out of the poorhouse (and our house). Prior to the Social Security Act, approximately half of all seniors 65 and older retired into poverty and often had to rely largely on their families for assistance. Today, the elder poverty rate has declined drastically thanks to Social Security. The program lifted more than 14.8 million seniors out of poverty in 2013.
2. Social Security delivers to children more than Santa Claus and the Easter bunny. The program is considered to be the nation’s largest and most generous children’s program. More than 3 million children under 18 receive Social Security benefits each month. Social Security also lifted 1.3 million children out of poverty in 2013.
3. Social Security has your back in good times and bad times. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) protects millions of workers from extreme poverty when they experience a life-changing disability. According to Social Security Works, SSDI is the primary disability and life insurance for most U.S. workers. Last year, Social Security provided disability benefits to nearly 9 million workers.
4. Social Security deserves our respect. Despite Social Security’s monumental success, the program continues to come under attack by right-wing extremists including U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin (who received Social Security survivor’s benefits as a child), who want to cut benefits in various ways. The best way we can fight back against their rhetoric is by sharing the facts about Social Security and urging lawmakers to expand the program instead of cutting benefits.
After all, we want to be able to celebrate Social Security’s accomplishments for at least another 80 years.