Social Security is celebrating its 80th birthday this August. As is common during any public celebration nowadays, there are always going to be those in the crowd turning the event into a platform to scrutinize the subject.
Social Security has taken a lot of heat politically in the past few years, as anybody even casually watching the news would know. Numerous politicians have questioned the long-term solvency of the Social Security retirement and disability programs. Even the writers of House of Cards have seemed to chime in during its third season, with the main character, democratic president Frank Underwood, trying to remove the Social Security structure entirely by replacing it with a program that would instead provide jobs to those unsuccessfully seeking employment.
While the writers of House of Cards might not have been attempting to stir any actual political ideas with the plot line, as Frank Underwood would say, it’s a question worth asking. Does Social Security have issues? Sure, but every federal agency has room for improvement. Even Social Security’s own actuary tables would indicate that it might be about time for it to seek some assistance and be open to modifications. But the frequent portrayal that the sky is falling on the Social Security system is a typical attempt to induce panic for self-interested gains instead of a full, transparent disclosure and open discussion of the facts on the matter.
The solvency of Social Security is a definite concern, but the reason that the system is facing such a major issue should also point to issues outside the agency. The question then becomes: is the solvency of the Social Security system at stake because it is being forced to externalize the costs of other poor policies that have been promoted in the past 80 years since its birth? Does Social Security actually need a huge overhaul, or could other policies outside the agency change and in turn help set Social Security back onto a solvent path? These, too, are questions worth asking.
In the meantime, let’s instead get back to celebrating and appreciate all that Social Security has done to help provide stability to the millions who have depended on it over the years. What is important to keep in mind is that by providing direct stability to those who need it most, Social Security has provided indirect stability to those who don’t think they need it at all. That’s because a society without an appropriate social safety net will eventually lead to a mass of citizens whose main concern focuses on survival rather than social order. Needless to say, that’s when bad things happen.
As we reach America’s 239th year we should take a moment to celebrate Social Security’s birthday, because the former might not have survived without the latter, and after all, the two are family. If everyone can at least for a moment acknowledge the benefits Social Security provides, then we’re all much more likely to work towards a creative solution to ensuring its longevity. Its 80th birthday is the perfect time for that to happen.