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Social Security Turns 75

In Iowa’s Interest

August 19, 2010
By U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Comming)
August 14th marks the 75th anniversary of the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law – an act that created one of America’s most important and successful domestic programs. When it was signed, President Roosevelt said, “The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, has tended more and more to make life insecure. Young people have come to wonder what would be their lot when they came to old age. The man with a job has wondered how long the job would last. This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete. It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

Social Security was designed to prevent seniors from falling into poverty and to help stimulate economic growth. It was created as a social safety net providing seniors with a steady income. Without it, nearly half of all seniors across the country would be living below the poverty line.

Today, the program is just as important as ever with more than 600,000 Iowa seniors benefitting from Social Security. In addition, 70,000 Iowans with disabilities are provided the opportunity to lead a productive life because of the Social Security Disability Insurance program.

As we reflect on the many benefits of Social Security, it is also important to think about the next 75 years. There has been much talk about the future of Social Security, especially in the context of our national debt. It is certainly true that as baby boomers begin to retire in larger numbers, this will place increased demands on Social Security. But to prepare for just this event, in 1984, Congress created the social security trust fund, financed from independent tax revenue. The trust fund currently stands at $2.5 trillion and is expected to grow to as much as $4.3 trillion in the coming years. In addition, according to the 2010 Social Security Trustees report, even without any changes, the trust fund will be able to pay full benefits until 2037. Importantly, without any changes, Social Security will not contribute to the deficit, even in the year 2037, because it is prohibited by law from taking on debt to pay benefits.

Addressing the future of the system is an ongoing process, but seniors, survivors, persons with disabilities – and people of all ages who will one day beneficiaries of Social Security – can rest assured knowing that this historically important program will remain strong and provide a much needed safety net for Americans.

Article Photos

Sen. Tom Harkin



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