Happy Birthday to Social Security

Today marks the 77th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.   It provided what we now know as Social Security, in addition to: unemployment insurance, grants to states for old-age assistance, aid to dependant children, and grants to states to provide various forms of medical care.   In the original Act, benefits were paid only to the original worker when he/she turned 65.   Benefits were based on payroll tax contributions made by the worker during his/her life.   The Act was signed on August 14, 1935, during Roosevelt’s first term, to implement “social insurance” during the Great Depression.  At that time, poverty rates among the elderly exceeded 50%.  Opponents criticized the program as socialism.  Most women and minorities were originally excluded.

Between 1935 and 2000, there were 30 major legislative changes to Social Security.  It has gradually shifted to include women and minority groups.  Today programs under the Social Security Act include: (1) Federal Old-Age (retirement), (2) Unemployment benefits, (3) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, (4) Medicare, (5) Medicaid, (6) State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), (7) Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and (8)  the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”).

In 1940, when monthly payments began, $35 million was paid out to 222,488 beneficiaries.   In 2012, $778 billion in benefits will be paid to over 56 million Americans.

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred 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.”

President Roosevelt upon signing Social Security Act

 FDR Signs Social Security Act


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