Many people joke that Social Security is a great program plan because "your mother in law will not have to live with you." Joking aside, if Social Security were taken away, over half of seniors would be below the poverty level. Social Security is a shining star among government programs. The program is very efficient with low overhead costs. It helps keep seniors and the disabled out of poverty and enjoys broad popular support.
Before destroying a valuable program, it is important to consider what the world was like before Social Security existed. By 1930's many European countries already had some kind of old age pension system. In California Dr. Francis Townsend campaigned to provide a $200 a month pension for everyone over the age of 60. His supporters were in groups known as Townsend Clubs. A similar idea was proposed by Upton Sinclair when he ran for governor of California in 1934. He lost the race for governor, but his ideas were taking hold all over the U.S.
When Social Security began back in 1935, we were in the midst of a great depression, and poverty among the elderly was quite common. By 1935 the population was ready for the plans to be accepted for not only retirement plans, but additional help for burial expenses and dependent children of formerly wage-earning parents who were now deceased. The start was rocky because in 1936 the Republican candidate said he would repeal the Social Security Act. However, the Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt won, and by 1936, one million people were receiving benefits. About three quarters were seniors, and the rest were dependent children and disabled persons.
Social Security is often a precious lifeline for families who encounter hard times through no fault of their own. I personally got through high school on it after my father died in 1947. Then when my first husband died in 1976, I was able to raise four sons on it. I am now 80 years old and living on a check which my second husband provided when he died 10 years ago. The program has very low overhead and administrative costs and is one of the most efficient programs that the government has ever enacted. With private and public sector pensions underfunded or being eliminated, Social security is the most likely avenue to put food on the table and a roof over the heads of future retirees.
Social Security is running a surplus even in bad economic times and is not currently contributing to the deficit. Social Security is healthy in the short run. The long term threat to Social Security comes from the demographic bulge known as the baby boom. Rather than privatizing Social Security, and ruining a good program, the federal government should make a few common sense adjustments now to save the program.
Currently the FICA tax only applies to the first $106,800 of income. This should be increased. People at this income level are doing well and can afford to contribute a little more to their fellow citizens. Other ideas include gradually raising the retirement age or even passing legislation that automatically ties retirement age to life expectancy. Privatizing would benefit financial firms who want to make money managing accounts more than citizens who depend on this vital program. Privatization is not in the public interest and should be avoided at all costs.
Because of the ruthless competition involved, capitalism is often referred to as a "dog eat dog' system. Social insurance programs are a hallmark of a caring and compassionate society. Don't let this great program go to the dogs.