Happy 76th Birthday to Social Security!August 11, 2011
This Sunday, August 14, marks the 76th anniversary of Social Security. When it began in 1935, Social Security only paid retirement benefits to workers, not their spouses or children. Social Security has evolved to become one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in our nation’s history. It’s a national commitment to care for one another across generations.
Social Security contains many features that make it more valuable to individuals than private insurance, such as guaranteed lifetime benefits, full cost-of-living and inflation adjustments, a progressive benefit formula, spousal and widow benefits, and disability and survivor benefits. It’s particularly important for women’s economic security, as more than half of older women would fall into poverty without Social Security benefits.
Social Security is more than a retirement program: It is also workers’ main source of disability insurance. Social Security is a safety net for disabled Americans, providing benefits to severely disabled adults with “adult child” benefits and aiding Americans who are unable to work. Additionally, Social Security programs are critical for keeping American children out of poverty. The system pays more benefits to children than any other federal program, including welfare, and insures 98 percent of American children against the loss of a parent or caretaker.
Yet Social Security faces challenges. The renewed focus on America’s deficit has prompted many politicians to pledge to “reform” Social Security, which they (incorrectly) blame for the deficit. Other proposals would raise the retirement age, cut benefit levels, or privatize Social Security accounts. Social Security did not cause the federal deficit — in fact, the program is “off budget” — and should not be blamed for it or weakened to address America’s financial problems. In poll after poll, Americans across the political and age spectrum have affirmed that they would rather pay more in taxes than see Social Security benefits cut.
AAUW believes that it is vital to women’s economic security to provide for the long-term solvency of Social Security and to maintain its current guaranteed benefits, and we strongly oppose attempts to cut Social Security. At this year’s AAUW National Convention in Washington, D.C., members of the “Big Teal Machine” lobbied Congress to oppose any cuts to Social Security. You can do that too by visiting AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist and telling Congress that you oppose cutting a critical program relied upon by millions of Americans.