In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told his fellow Americans “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” And one of their fears was an old age in poverty, being tossed to the street with nothing to show for years of hard toil. Indeed, during the Great Depression, unemployment in older Americans was around 50 percent.
And so, on August 14, 1935, 80 years ago this past Friday, FDR signed Social Security into law. Then critics called it socialism. Roosevelt might have better called it hope. For he surely knew, were the Depression to last and last, America likely would have been in for a revolution.
Today, Social Security, after surviving financial crises, continues to provide security for older citizens and the disabled and spouses and surviving children. It needs constant monitoring, but older Americans in particular at least have a floor of sorts under them ... not much of one in many cases, but something. Social Security has been and is more than a government program. It is hope.