Social Security
Happy 70th anniversary, Social Security
By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 9, 2005, 23:13

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.

Social Security 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 Pringle�s �Medicare 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 program.

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.

As 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

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