Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 48th anniversary of Medicare. Thirty years before that, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed into law the Social Security Act. He did that on today's date in 1935:
So Happy Anniversary, Social Security. In his speech at the signing ceremony on 14 August 1935 FDR said,
"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…poverty-ridden old age.”
As so it has for 78 years. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports , the benefit currently lifts 14.5 million elders above the poverty line.
”Without Social Security benefits, nearly half of all elders - 43.6 percent - would have incomes below the official poverty line. Because of this law, only 8.7 percent do.”
We elders are not the only Social Security beneficiaries. Disabled workers and survivors of workers who have died receive payments including more than 6 million children younger than 18.
And now, as of two months ago, same-sex married couples have the same Social Security rights as every other married couple thanks to the Supreme Court declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
Last week, the Social Security Administration announced that it has begun processing claims of same-sex couples.
For now, SSA is paying claims only from couples who were married in a state that permits same-sex marriage and who are living in a state that recognizes same sex marriage at the time of their application for benefits.
”Social Security said it's holding onto those claims that don't meet these criteria,” reports the Baltimore Sun , until it gets more guidance from the Justice Department.”
For some same-sex couples in states without marriage yet, California Representative Linda Sanchez has introduced The Social Security Equality Act of 2013 ( H.R. 3050 ) with 109 co-sponsors. The bill would
”...require the Social Security Administration to provide spousal, survivor and death benefits to same-sex couples in relationships that have been recognized by the state where they live,” [says Sanchez's office].
That would be nine states that allow civil unions. We're haven't gotten to universal same-sex marriage yet, but we're moving forward.
All-in-all, there is a lot about Social Security to celebrate even if people on the right side of political spectrum want to kill the program altogether and, failing that, reduce the program by inflicting a thousand cuts.
With all the shrieking about killing Obamacare this summer season, you may have forgotten about the most recent threat - to use “chained CPI” to calculate inflation which would reduce Social Security cost-of-living increases.
Don't worry, the right political flank hasn't forgotten and they'll renew that effort soon. Meanwhile, there is an important, growing movement not to reduce Social Security benefits but to increase them.
Here one reason for that from Sheryl Tenicat speaking at a senior center meeting in Iowa on 6 August where her senator, Tom Harkin, was visiting that day. (The audio on this video is terrible so below it is a transcript of Ms. Tenicat's most salient points.)
“$624 a month. That’s what I live on. $99 of that goes to my Medicare Part ‘A’ and ‘B’. After I get my check in two weeks, it’s gone. I have nothing. I live on what I eat here. I don’t want my cost of living cut because I’ve paid in since I was 16..."
Paid in since she was 16 with $624 a month to show for it. I know for a fact that at least several Time Goes By readers somehow get by on $800 or less in Social Security benefits. The red-state politicians and their followers always say it's elders' own fault, if they don't have enough money to eat well, for not saving more.
Oh, really? Save when the corporate/government cabal has, for the past 30 years, systematically (and deliberately) destroyed two legs (pensions and salaries) of the three-legged stool Social Security was originally mean to supplement as number three?
How much can anyone have saved who spent a lifetime working for minimum wage, or even twice that amount?
How much can anyone have saved whose 401(k) tanked in 2008? 401(k)s that were not paying off as promised, anyway.
How much can people who got laid off in their 50s have saved while they watched younger people being hired instead of them and now stand all day, if they can get hired at all, flipping burgers for minimum wage?
And, how much does anyone have in retirement when the company they worked for through several decades filed for bankruptcy and pensions went poof? Or governments that reneged on pensions - think what is probably going to happen to retired/retiring police and firefighters in Detroit who paid into local pension plans and not Social Security. It has happened before.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who you saw briefly in Sheryl Tenicat's video above, is a proponent of increasing Social Security. His Senate bill, S.567 - Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013, can be found here .
MoveOn is sponsoring a petition for the bill which you can sign here . No, nothing as radical as benefit increases will happen quickly. But like the tea party on their issues, we need to keep making noise, to keep repeating ourselves until what is right catches on.
You can read about the movement to expand Social Security here or google “harkin social security” for more information and background.
Whenever the right wing gets on their band wagon about killing Social Security, aside from the cruelty of their goal they never consider that almost 100 percent of Social Security benefits are spent right back into local communities.
The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM) had published a nifty map of the United States where you can click on your state to see a snapshot of how much Social Security contributes to your local economy.
In most cases, it's billions of dollars.
Well, look how far I've gotten to. I really didn't mean for this post to be so lengthy or to harangue you about all this. But Social Security is crucial to just about every retired person in the U.S. except the one percent. It must be preserved and it must be improved.
The forces against Social Security are powerful and well-funded. To fight back, we need to know what's going on and I hope you'll click a few of today's links to learn more. It's a great way to celebrate the anniversary.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Janet Thompson: TSA Terror