By NEMS Daily Journal
Social Security turns 75 on Saturday, the most widely used government pension and economic security program in the United States, and it faces an uncertain future unless sensible, concerned leaders can set aside purely partisan interests to craft a fiscally sound and fair reform plan to sustain it.
Enacted in 1935 as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Depression-era New Deal, its first check was delivered to Ida Mae Fuller in January 1940.
Social Security was the first program that gave widespread assurance for retirees that their life after work would not be one of destitution and financial despair. Despite the best personal efforts of most Americans, the Great Depression had intensified financial uncertainty in old age.
If Social Security continues unreformed it will go belly-up in 2037, and most leaders in Congress and the financial sector want reforms that will assure its viability.
The stark political fact is that Social Security has an enormous and powerful presence at the ballot box, and few politicians disregard the potential impact.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said Thursday in an editorial board interview that finding a long-term solution is essential – a position affirmed by every sensible member of Congress.
We believe a special commission – if composed of smart pragmatists from both parties – could produce an adoptable solution hammered out with clear vision.
The AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons), describes Social Security as a “a guaranteed pension that, on average, replaces 40 percent of a retiree’s wages. And because it is risk-free – the only part of the retirement system that is – it is the lifeline that many older Americans … count on for their day-to-day lives.”
Social Security can continue in that role but not without changes.
Wicker said one step could be gradually increasing the retirement age. President Ronald Reagan drove a bipartisan decision to add two years to eligibility, and many Baby Boomers must wait until they are 66 or 67 rather than the historic age 65 for full benefits. Additional years (some have suggested age 70) could extend its solvency, especially in light of longer careers and longer life expectancy.
We agree with AARP that “any changes to Social Security should be discussed as part of a broader conversation about how to help Americans prepare for a secure retirement, especially as other sources of retirement income – such as pensions, savings and home equity – have been crumbling over the past decade.”
Beyond that, the main issue is urgency. The time for mere talk is long past.