On August 13th, Social Security turned 75 years old. As the nation commemorates this landmark legislation, we should be reminded of a promise made 75 years ago-a promise that said old age will not force hard-working Americans into poverty and destitution. I am proud to say that year after year, Social Security continues to deliver on that promise, and it has been strengthened to provide family wage insurance in cases of death or disability. For three-quarters of a century, through 13 recessions, Americans have been able to depend on benefits that arrive on-time and in full.
Over the years, Democrats have fought long and hard to improve and strengthen Social Security; from expanding and fine-tuning it in the 1950s and 1960s, to preserving its solvency in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2005, when Republicans tried to subject the program to the whims of Wall Street through privatization, Democrats stepped in and saved Social Security from this effort to destroy it.
Today, as the nation struggles to recover from the failed policies of the previous administration, Republicans have renewed their anti-social-safety-net campaign and are trying to pull the rug out from under retirees and the disabled through massive cuts and privatization.
Imagine for a moment that the plan President Bush and Congressional Republicans were pushing to privatize Social Security in 2005 had become law. Seniors would have lost billions of dollars in Social Security income along with any retirement savings they had when the economy collapsed at the end of the Bush years. When the stock market plunged and the housing bubble burst, there was one thing America’s seniors could count on: Social Security.
The new Republican plan for Social Security is just as extreme as the plan they advanced in 2005. It would cut Social Security retirement and survivor benefits for the middle class. It would divert trillions of dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund into private accounts and subject worker’s basic retirement security to the risk of losses. Eventually four out of every ten dollars of Social Security payroll contributions would be diverted to private accounts – threatening the ability of the Trust Fund to pay benefits to today’s seniors. And, it would grow the deficit, increasing federal borrowing by more than $1 trillion.
Social Security is part of the underpinnings of our society. It is based on the premise that if you work hard and play by the rules you will have the stability and security of guaranteed income in your older years. For 75 years, Social Security has never been a day late or a dollar short. It has provided the foundation for Americans’ retirement security for generations. Instead of working to dismantle the program, I will continue to work to strengthen and preserve Social Security for Americans today and for the generations to come.
Rep. James Moran (D) is Virginia’s 8th Congressional District Representative in the U.S. House of Representatives.