Since FDR established it in 1935, Social Security has fueled countless political debates. In 1939, politicians were concerned about a huge reserveprojected to pile up to more than $47 billion by 1980. But by 1977 dire warnings of insolvency had become the battle cry. From the New Deal to the Reagan era to our current debate, let our TIME Collection give you a deeper understanding of social security.
He [Roosevelt] appointed a Committee on Economic Security, which in turn gathered around it a group of expert advisers to plow the virgin field of 'social security' and raise a fruitful crop of legislative ideas.
From Breaking Soil
Nov. 26, 1934
The good doctor's Old Age Revolving Pensions scheme, better known as the Townsend Plan, had by last week become one of the biggest political facts in the U.S. The early California groundswell of sentiment in its favor had grown to a tidal wave, battering at nearly every door in House and Senate Office Buildings.
From Simple Plan
Jan. 14, 1935
Last week, after nearly six months in a legislative pea soup. Congress suddenly reached the fringes of the murk....In five days the Senate polished up, passed and sent to conference one of the great omnibus measures of the session-the Social Security Bill.
From Hustling Homeward
Jul. 1, 1935
In 1935 Franklin Roosevelt sold Congress and Congress sold the U. S. the Social Security Act, the biggest, most comprehensive, most expensive mass insurance policy ever written. Since then its purchasers, the nation's taxpayers, have had occasion to read their policy carefully and, if they have detected no outright jokers, their reaction has been such that practically every politician in the U. S. from Franklin Roosevelt down has put revision of Social Security at the top of his must list.
From Pie from the Sky
Feb. 13, 1939
Social Security having paid out only $11,000,000 on old-age benefits (to Dec. 31 last) is rapidly piling up a huge reserve. By 1980, as the act now reads, the reserve would amount to $47,000,000,000 (about seven times the amount of money now circulating in the U. S.).
From Fundamental Fallacy
Apr. 3, 1939
Nearly 3,000,000 people who draw old-age or survivor pensions under federal Social Security last week got a raise--their first since 1939. The raise looked big--it averaged 77%--but actually it did little more than cover the rise in the cost of living (73.4%) since 1939. Monthly checks will now average $46 a person.
Oct. 16, 1950
Congress has lately made two additions to the brief list of certainties in American life. Social Security benefits will go up automatically in every year that there is significant inflation--and the Social Security taxes paid by many middle-and higher-income workers will rise in every year that there is no full-scale depression.
From Up Every Year
Jul. 17, 1972
The alternative to passing the bill was letting Social Security go bust. Billions in revenue have been draining out of the system since 1975, primarily because of high unemployment and increases in benefits to keep up with inflation.
From Saving Social Security
Dec. 26, 1977
More fundamentally, the aged have been misled for two generations into believing that Social Security payments constitute no more than a return to them of the payroll taxes that they have paid during their working years. This is dramatically untrue.
From A Debt-Threatened Dream
By George J. Church
May. 24, 1982
For the bipartisan National Commission on Social Security Reform, the race to meet its Jan. 15 deadline for agreement on proposals to save the ailing Social Security system was a photo finish....The negotiations had become deadlocked over the proper mix of tax increases (generally favored by Democrats) and benefit cuts (generally favored by Republicans).
From Close Call for Social Security
By Susan Tifft
Jan. 24, 1983
Though it's anathema to most politicians to say so, among the scholars and policy analysts who study the budget charts and chew their nails in suspense as the baby boomers inch toward later life, the verdict is just about unanimous: as Social Security nears its 60th birthday, it is ripe for retirement.
From Social Insecurity
By George J. Church and Richard Lacayo
Mar. 20, 1995
But for all their howling, Democrats are wrong if they think this commission is just going to rubber-stamp the president's position. Why? Because the president doesn't have much of a position. Much like the wispy specifics in his National Missile Defense plan yesterday, Bush has artfully ducked the tough questions about just how the privatization is going to work.
From Why Bush's Social Security Panel Could Be the Real Deal
By John Dickerson
May. 02, 2001
What's got everybody stirred up? A commission George W. Bush formed to retool Social Security has issued a preliminary report warning that the system is badly "broken" and headed for a train wreck in the future unless part of it is privatized.
From The Coming Fight Over Privatizing Social Security
By Douglas Waller
Jul. 23, 2001
That warning may not be wrong, but it's not the whole story. Since the last big commission met in 1983...Social Security has been collecting higher payroll taxes from workers to build up the trust fund in preparation for the baby boom's retirement, which starts in 2008.
From The Sky Will Fall In 2016
By Michael Duffy and Douglas Waller
Aug. 06, 2001
The sagging economy and the first installment of Bush's tax cut have so reduced tax revenues that the only surplus left for this year, and for the next couple, are the hundreds of billions of dollars extra collected for Social Security. Congress routinely dipped into Social Security surpluses when they began appearing in 1983 in order to pay for other government programs, and economists see no harm in doing that now, particularly as a recession hedge.
From Why Some Campaign Promises Should Be Broken
By Douglas Waller
Sep. 10, 2001
Congress prepared Thursday to hand a stack of blank checks to President Bush, who promised to "spend whatever it takes" to rebuild the shattered parts of his nation. Certainly the debate over whether to dip into the Social Security surplus is a faint memory. Infusions of government funds into industries like defense and security are likely in the near future.
From The Question of Citizen Confidence
By Frank Pelligrini
Sep. 12, 2001
Bush may be trying to eventually turn Social Security into something like a 401(k) plan, but not even the Enron mess is going to scare him into turning 401(k)s into something like Social Security.
From Whose 401(k) Is It Anyway?
By Frank Pelligrini
Feb. 01, 2002
Suddenly voters are paying more attention to the solvency of the Social Security and Medicare trust funds and wondering whether Medicare will pay for their prescription drugs.
From The Insecurity Industry
By Karen Tumulty
Feb. 11, 2002
Showing voters a detailed plan on Social Security could have sent Bush back to Crawford, Texas permanently. But having avoided airing specific proposals during the election, whatever plans he now puts forward don't carry much of a public mandate, and Republican members of Congress don't know if they can win reelection while supporting diverting money from Social Security to private accounts.
From Getting the GOP Behind Bush on Social Security
By Perry Bacon
Mar. 10, 2005
George Bush gets a thrill from admitting that he was C-student. It may seems like an odd point to make in the middle of a battle for Social Security—especially when your plan is struggling. But that's precisely why Bush does it. "For you C students out there, don't give up," he says.
From On the Road Again, and Again...
By John Dickerson
Mar. 14, 2005
When Bush jetted on Air Force One to address the state's legislature last week, he was greeted by a front-page editorial in South Carolina's leading newspaper, The State, warning that he'd have a tough time selling his plan to partially privatize Social Security even in the heart of Bush country.
From A Tough Sell for Bush
By Matthew Cooper
Apr. 22, 2005
[President Bush's] unwillingness to drop Social Security reform in the face of lousy polling results is certainly admirable. He has changed the emphasis from semi-privatization of old-age pensions (although he still favors that change) to the solvency of the system, and he has proposed a creative solution, progressive indexing, which would modulate benefits according to income, with the poor receiving proportionately more than the wealthy.
From Staying—and Overstaying—the Course
By Joe Klein
Jun. 11, 2005
However, the President and his aides have begun signaling a legislative strategy that they can pursue, win or lose: challenge Congress to go after big goals, including debating an overhaul of Social Security and the other two big entitlement programs, Medicare and Medicaid.
From Inside Bush's Strategy, Win or Lose
By Mike Allen
Nov. 07, 2006
About 500 to 600 workers at the Tar Heel plant were found to have Social Security numbers that could not be verified, and Smithfield fired the workers. The workers argued that the company did not give them enough time to resolve their Social Security problems.
From Should Illegal Workers Be Unionized?
By Paul Cuadros
Dec. 7, 2006
Givens says the combination of information accessed is valuable on the black market and likely to be sold. Buyers could use the data to fraudulently apply for cell phones or credit cards. Because Social Security numbers are almost never changed, hackers could also retain and resell the information for years to come.
From Lessons from the UCLA Hack Attack
By Jeremy Caplan
Dec. 12, 2006
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