77 Years After It Became Law, Social Security Keeps 20 Million Americans Out of Poverty

Today marks the 77th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signing the Social Security Act into law, creating arguably America’s most successful social program. “We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred 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,” FDR said on that day.

Today, as this table from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows, Social Security is keeping more than 20 million Americans out of poverty:

As CBPP’s Kathy Ruffing noted, Social Security is “the single most important source of income for its elderly beneficiaries, contributing on average two-thirds of income for recipients over age 65. For more than one-third of them, Social Security constitutes 90 percent or more of income…Without Social Security, nearly half of elderly Americans would live below the official poverty level; instead, fewer than 10 percent do.”

Conservatives — aided by a media content to misinform about the program’s finances — love scaremongering about Social Security, despite the fact that it is exceedingly easy to secure its solvency for decades to come. Any talk of cutting its benefits ignores the very real impact that it has on elderly, disabled, and young Americans.