Sunday, August 14,
will mark the 70th birthday of the signing of the Social Security Act in 1935
by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was surrounded at the signing by a group
of 19 fellow Democrats plus one Progressive.
I suggest that
recipients, their kids and grandkids and friends everywhere throw Social
Security parties on the 14th for the venerable system. Light a few candles for
its continued life, and then sharpen your activist axes and wits to make sure
no one threatens the program�s future.
taxes were actually collected for the first time In January 1937 and the first
one-time, lump sum payments were made the same month. Regular ongoing monthly
benefits started in January 1940. The program�s medical adjunct, Medicare, was
signed into law on July 30, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson, and
beneficiaries were first able to sign-up for the program on July 1, 1966.
We have George
Putsch Bush to thank for the holes punched in Medicare�s prescription drug law
to benefit drug makers, HMOs and private insurance plans, as a consequence of
the nefarious Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003, which is neither
improvement nor modernization, but a kick in the pockets to seniors. See Evelyn
prescription drug law�countdown to 2006.�
Under the original
1935 law, Social Security only paid retirement benefits to the primary worker.
But a 1939 change in the law added survivors� benefits and benefits for the
retiree�s spouse and children. And in 1965, disability benefits were added.
Remember also that the Social Security Act was much broader than the program
that today we describe as Social Security. The original 1935 law contained the
first national unemployment compensation program and aid to the states for
various health and welfare programs and for an Aid to Dependent Children
It was a generous
and caring program for the Depression-battered workers and out-of-work families
of America�unlike the privatization dog-eat-dog circus proposed by George Bush
and his millionaire friends today, which in effect seeks to loot Social
Security for the Wall Street profiteers and to pay off the administration�s
next war in the Middle East.
of 1984, aside from raising the Social Security tax to help keep the program
solvent, Ronald Reagan in one of his more lucid moments, gave coverage to all
members of Congress, the president, vice president, federal judges, and most
political appointees. They pay into the system like everyone else, and it�s a
good dose of reality for them. All members of Congress, no matter their length
of service, have been paying into Social Security since January 1984, including
George Schultz (remember that name), one of the would-be neocon architects of
its demise. Schultz contributed in a major way to the demise of Chile�s Social
Security with his privatization pick-pocketing plan.
The first Social
Security cards were issued in 1939, and since then over 415 million numbers
have been issued, and about 5.5 million new numbers a year are assigned, which
will give you an idea of how many lives this system has touched and
aided�people of all races, creeds and political association. Nor has Social
Security ever been financed to any significant extent by general tax revenues,
so it�s never been a weight on anyone�s back, only a boon to its payees. And in
fact, from 1937 to 2003, Social Security has paid out more than $7.9 trillion
in benefits (by now over $8 trillion). That�s without contributing a penny to
America�s national debt of $7.5 trillion.
You see, this plan
was designed to support itself, with a Retirement Trust Fund created to invest
assets of the Social Security program. They hold a mix of short-term and
long-term government bonds. The Trust Funds earn interest on the invested
assets of the combined OASI and DI Trust Funds, which runs an annual interest
rate of nearly 7 percent. So that�s the simple long and short of it. Once
again, the American working people, given a decent retirement plan, come
through to support and leave a surplus for it for the future, and when
diminishing numbers of workers pay in less than is paid out.
And once again, the
vision of Roosevelt�s New Deal, which was a great deal, is vindicated, as
opposed to the blood-sucking, blood-spilling desires of the neocons and their
oligarchic forbearers. Now that�s something to celebrate in this world dimmed
by the smoke of war and the manufactured terror of our own government and its
dark shadow. So light the candles, folks, give a slice of the cake to everyone,
as FDR had in mind. And after the celebration, gird yourself to fight for your
life to hold on to what is yours.
Jerry Mazza is a
freelance writer living in New York and a recipient of Social Security. Reach
him at firstname.lastname@example.org.