It was 80 years ago Friday that Social Security was introduced in the United States, but the huge retirement and disability program is “showing its age,” says The New York Times:

Social Security’s disability fund is projected to run dry next year. The retirement fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035. But once the fund is depleted, the shortfalls are projected to be enormous.

The stakes are huge: Nearly 60 million retirees, disabled workers, spouses and children get monthly Social Security payments, and that number is projected to grow to 90 million over the next two decades.

And the timing is bad: Social Security faces these problems as fewer employers are offering traditional pensions, forcing older workers to think hard about how they will afford retirement.

Meanwhile, over the next 75 years Social Security is projected to pay out $159 trillion more in benefits than it will collect in taxes.

FDR on Social Security

Flickr: DonkeyHotey

On marking Social Security’s birthday, members of Hawaii’s congressional delegation — Democrats all — emailed and tweeted their thoughts.

U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz this week introduced the Safeguarding American Families and Expanding Social Security Act, legislation which his office says will expand Social Security.

“The bill would increase benefits by about $65 per month, ensure the cost of living adjustments adequately reflect the living expenses of retirees, extend the life of the trust fund, and remove the wage cap to make sure all Americans contribute equally,” according to a press release.

In Hawaii, Schatz’s office says that more than 250,000 people — or over one in six residents — rely on Social Security benefits.  In 2040, the number of Hawaii seniors is expected to make up more than 20 percent of the population.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mazie Hirono is talking up her own legislation — the Protecting and Preserving Social Security Act, which was introduced in April with U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL.). Here’s what Hirono’s office says about the bill:

Currently, most Americans contribute 6.2 percent of every paycheck they earn to Social Security, while a corporate lawyer earning $400,000 pays an annual rate of just 1.71 percent and a CEO earning $2 million pays an annual rate of just .003 percent. By ensuring those at the very top of the income ladder pay into Social Security at the same rate as most Americans, this legislation extends the system’s solvency at a time when nearly two-thirds of retirees rely on Social Security for a majority of their income. The legislation also restores accuracy to a broken cost-of-living adjustment formula and ensures that the benefits of all retirees keep pace, instead of shrink, in the face of inflation.

Finally, Rep. Mark Takai released his own birthday statement, saying, “These are benefits that our workforce has earned, and Congress needs to take action to protect this critical program. That is why I have cosponsored legislation that will expand benefits and ensure that the program remains solvent for years to come.”

Takai’s staff says the bills include these:

H.R.3150 The One Social Security Act, introduced by Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA): “The One Social Security Act would prevent a sudden, arbitrary 19 percent cut to earned Social Security benefits for Americans who receive Social Security because of a disability. If Congress does not act, in late 2016, Social Security monthly payments to 11 million current recipients will be cut by 19 percent.”

H.R.1391 The Social Security 2100 Act, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT): “The bill comprehensively strengthens benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries while keeping the program strong through the 21st Century.” It does these things:

  • Benefit bump for current and new beneficiaries – Everyone will see modest increase starting in 2015.
  • Improved cost of living adjustments (COLA) by adopting the CPI-E formula.
  • A tax break to over 10 million Social Security recipients by raising the threshold for taxation on benefits for individual and joint filers.
  • Protection for low income workers because no one who paid into the system should come out poor. It would set a new minimum benefit that will be 25 percent above the poverty line.

H.R.1404 The Social Security and Marriage Equality Act introduced by Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI): “Prior to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, HR 1404 or the SAME Act was introduced to ensure that all lawfully married same-sex couples will receive Social Security spousal benefits, regardless of where they live.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is also a co-sponsor of H.R. 1391. The chances of any of these bills passing in a Republican-controlled Congress, however, are slim.

Speaking of Democrats, here’s what President Franklin D. Roosevelt had to say on Aug. 14, 1935, when he signed the Social Security Act into law:

Today, a hope of many years standing is in large part fulfilled…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.

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