Social Security Act

By Roosevelt Institute |

dictionary-150[Note: updated on 2.16.2011]

What is the Social Security Act?

The Social Security Act was drafted under FDR’s first term, passed Congress as part of the New Deal, and was signed by FDR on August 14, 1935. The Act responded to the pitfalls of old age, poverty, unemployment, and dependent widows and fatherless children by providing benefits to retirees and the unemployed, as well as a lump-sum at death.

What’s the significance?

The Act was controversial at the time, with opponents arguing that it would kill jobs. It also excluded many women and minorities from receiving benefits. However, the Act has been modified over time to adapt to a changing society, and is now one of the best-loved programs in America, improving the lives of millions of Americans. In 2009, nearly 51 million Americans will receive $650 billion in Social Security benefits.

The Act has become controversial once again, however, as lawmakers focus on the deficit. Obama has told his Fiscal Commission that everything is on the table for potential cuts, and many worry that Social Security benefits may get the knife. Critics are calling for a reduction in benefits and an increase in the retirement age. Yet Social Security’s fiscal outlook remains strong.

Who’s talking about it?

Both Republican and Democratic leaders have put raising the retirement age on the table…Fiscal Commission chairman Erskine Bowles said that three quarters of deficit reduction will come from slashing the social safety net…Robert Kuttner, Nancy Altman and others weighed in on ND20’s series “Social Security’s Fiscal Fitness”, which proved the program is both vital and sound…Jeff Madrick points out how unbalanced the Simpson-Bowles report is…Roosevelt historian David Woolner reminds us of Social Security’s bipartisan roots and recalls how it was a bold step that took the country forward…In a Working Paper, Tom Ferguson and Rob Johnson prove that Social Security is not the “moby dick” of deficit reduction targets…Randy Wray disputes the fallacies some liberals still promote about the program…Richard Kirsch sees the same process of Americans coming to love this program happening to healh care reform…Bryce Covert notes that young people are already expecting slashed benefits and bleak retirements…Tarsi Dunlop unveils data on how many Americans support and rely on its benefits…Michael Hiltzik points out critics’ bogus math while proving that Social Security is in far better shape than they’ll admit…Dean Baker says the target of deficit reduction should be Wall Street transactions, where the real money is — not Social Security…Matt Miller explains that Bowles’ spending goals are far too small for our aging country…David Dayen points out that the entire premise of the Fiscal Commission is wrong, which will lead to the wrong conclusions…Heidi Hartmann and Marshall Auerback & Randy Wray debate whether a payroll tax cut endangers the program…Chuck Spinney explains how waging endless wars and slashing the social safety net go hand in hand.

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