It was eighty years ago today that President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act. But it’s more than its age that makes Social Security an American classic.

  • We built it—and it represents our shared values. Generation after generation, working Americans have contributed to create our Social Security system—to provide income and security for themselves, their families, and their neighbors when they need it.
  • We built it to last. Through wars, recessions, and natural disasters, Social Security has delivered the benefits workers have earned for themselves and their families—on time and in full.
  • We made Social Security better. President Roosevelt himself said that the law he signed “represents a cornerstone in a structure which is being built but which is by no means complete.” We’ve added protections for spouses, surviving spouses, divorced spouses, and children; for workers with disabilities and their families; extended coverage to more workers; provided automatic cost-of-living adjustments; and eliminated sex discrimination in the award of benefits.

Working together to improve Social Security made it an American classic. What’s next?

  • Insist that Congress prevents deep cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance next year. There are simple solutions to this phony crisis. Congress could rebalance Social Security’s finances between its two Trust Funds, as it has 11 times before. Or, it could unify the Trust Funds—recognizing that there is One Social Security system and it is still going strong. Under either approach, Social Security could pay 100 percent of all promised benefits until 2034. And after that, even with no changes, Social Security can pay 79 percent of promised benefits from the payroll taxes workers and employers will continue to pay into Social Security.
  • Strengthen Social Security’s finances by increasing revenue, not cutting benefits; for example, by requiring high earners to pay Social Security payroll taxes on all their earnings, the way the vast majority of Americans do.
  • Increase vital but modest Social Security benefits. Several bills to enhance benefits and improve solvency have been introduced in this Congress.

So Happy Birthday Social Security—and many, many more.