Among the social programs created by the U.S. government, Social Security continues to get high approval ratings 80 years later, especially in the last 20 years, with AARP polls showing that 82 percent of those surveyed support it. Incredibly, most of the GOP presidential candidates are railing against it by wanting to diminish it, privatize it or get rid of it completely, though the group of Americans who have benefited the most from it — ages 65 and older — also have the highest voter turnout, at 69.7 percent in 2012 compared to 63.4 percent for ages 45-64. We can’t help but wonder why the GOP would dare touch such a praised program. While many may gripe about all the various government-run programs and their costs, there is no denying the good that Social Security has managed to accomplish over the last eight decades. But first, we should look at the man behind it.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president in 1933 and held the seat until he died, for a record-breaking four terms — before two-term limits had been enacted. He was just the kind of leader this country needed and wanted right after the disastrous Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression and WWII. Roosevelt, aka FDR, was critical in the creation of the middle class and getting families back to work again through the New Deal, which focused on providing relief for the unemployed by creating public-sector jobs. His list of accomplishments is vast and all of them bettered American society, steering it away from the cliff it had once been teetering on, though there was still plenty of pushback from Republicans. And the same ol’ rhetoric, pandering to the rich then and now the über rich — 1 percenters — in hopes of valuable campaign pledges, continues to appeal to too many politicians despite blatant evidence to the contrary, that “socialist” programs can and do work. For instance, according to a National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health Interview Survey, 11.3 percent of Americans were without health insurance coverage in the second quarter of 2014 compared to 14.4 percent in 2013. But the GOP will deny that any good has come of the last eight years, and their supporters will believe it. Republicans could say that the moon is made of green cheese and too many would take it as fact.
When it comes to Social Security, however, disparaging remarks and potential policy to destroy it is foolish campaigning at best. The fact of the matter is, according to a 2013 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Social Security keeps 22 million Americans out of poverty, from the disabled to the elderly. But FDR had a good handle on what Social Security would do for so many struggling to survive, as is evident from his statement at the time of signing it into law:
“We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 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 the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.
“This law, too, represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete …. It is … 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.”
If there is something to argue over in this idea, we can’t find any reasonable objection other than pure denial of compassion. And we are better than that.