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Social Security 75-Year Milestone This Weekend

August 13, 2010

PHOENIX - Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of Social Security. It's a program that was created during the depths of the Great Depression, when most older Americans were struggling with poverty. Since then, it's been credited for keeping millions of Americans out of poverty, including seniors, people with disabilities, widows and children. More than one million Arizonans receive monthly benefit checks.

Arizona AARP president Len Kirschner says Social Security is even more vital during the current economic downturn.

"You've been reading about people who have lost their jobs. They turn 62, and suddenly they find that they're desperate for some sort of an income stream. And, at least Social Security is there. They need that money now, and it's there."

A recent AARP survey shows 85 percent of Americans are strongly against reducing Social Security benefits as a way to cut the federal deficit. Kirschner says there are plenty of other ways to deal with the funding shortfall.

"If you change some of the formulas, for instance on the COLA, you would solve much of the fiscal problem. But today, Social Security is a very stable program."

About ten years ago, there was a lot of talk about privatizing Social Security; investing the payroll tax in the stock market or letting people make their own investments. Kirschner thinks that idea has now been discredited.

"The idea to carve money out of what would have gone to the Social Security trust fund and give it to people to invest, probably would not have been a good idea in the last decade."

Kirschner says Social Security and its Medicare add-on have been the bedrock of much of America's social policy for the last 80 years.

The program adds roughly $1 billion a month to Arizona's economy. However, a recent report by the program's trustees projects that the wave of early retirees could put Social Security in the red within the next two years, which is why program cuts have recently been debated.

Doug Ramsey, Public News Service - AZ