An American treasure turns 81 this weekend: Social Security

This weekend we mark the anniversary of one of the crown jewels of the New Deal-era that has helped to improve the lives of countless of American retirees. On Sunday, the Social Security Act which was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on August 14, 1935, will be turning 81.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935

Even before the ‘Great Depression’ struck the United States in 1929, it was not uncommon for retired Americans or people who were no longer able to work due to age or illness to be forced to live in poverty. It’s hard to believe that throughout most of American history, once a person dropped out of the workforce they often would have no way to pay for food and housing without the assistance of younger relatives.

In the early 1930’s, as momentum was growing across the country to address the consequences of the Great Depression, there was also a push to address systemic poverty at all levels of society. In an effort to spur economic growth and lift Americans out of poverty, President Roosevelt launched his effort to pass a series of social service and economic initiatives known as the ‘New Deal.’ During this period, the President and Congress determined it was time to pass legislation that would permanently remove the risks associated with retiring from work in old age. Their efforts would give rise to a social insurance program which workers pay into throughout their lives to ensure that they receive a modest earned benefit after a lifetime of work. Since that time, Social Security has provided financial security to millions of American seniors and has drastically reduced the number of seniors living in poverty during retirement.

Today, more than 59 million Americans receive Social Security’s earned benefit, including 42.5 million retirees and more than 9 million veterans. This protection for seniors is more important than ever because the Social Security Administration estimates that 51% of the workforce has no private pension coverage, and 34% of the workforce has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.

Congressman Courtney at the New London Senior Center visiting residents on August 12, 2016.

Since the creation of the Social Security program, there have been several points when Congress has needed to strengthen it for future generations. We are once again approaching one of those periods when common-sense reforms to Social Security will ensure the program remains robust for decades to come.

That is why I am proud to support a bill being led by Connecticut Representative John Larson (CT-01) called the Social Security 2100 Act. By fine-tuning the program through several small changes without cutting one cent of earned benefits, the Social Security 2100 Act is an attempt to ensure the system remains solvent until the end of this century. In addition, it would expand benefits for all current and future Social Security recipients, and cut taxes for over 10 million seniors currently receiving benefits.

One of the most important changes in the bill for today’s seniors will be to update the formula that governs the yearly cost of living adjustment, or COLA, to make sure seniors are never deprived of a modest annual raise again.

I promise that protecting Social Security for today’s seniors and future generations will continue to be a top priority for me as your representative in Washington. If you have questions about Social Security, Medicare, or other federal programs, please send me an email, or call my office in Norwich at: 860–886–0139

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