News Release

New Book for Anniversary: “The Truth About Social Security”

NANCY ALTMAN, naltman at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Altman is president of Social Security Works and author of the new book The Truth About Social Security: The Founders’ Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings, which is being released on Aug. 14, the 83rd anniversary of the program.

She just wrote the piece “The Truth About Social Security: Exploding Five Destructive Myths,” which include “Myth: Social Security is welfare, a ‘safety net,'” “Myth: Social Security was intended to be simply a foundation on which to build — part of a ‘three-legged stool,'” and “Myth: Social Security is out of date, needs to be modernized, and no longer works for the 21st century.”

In “Myth: Social Security has grown much larger than the founders intended. Indeed, they might not even recognize today’s Social Security,” Altman states: “The late Robert J. Myers, who was a lifelong Republican and remains, to this day, the longest serving chief actuary of Social Security, started his career in 1934, helping to develop what would become Social Security. In his landmark, exhaustive treatise, Myers states, ‘The level of [Social Security benefits payable to retired workers, once fully phased in] under the original 1935 law is actually significantly higher than under present law.’

“More fundamentally, Roosevelt and the other founders had a bold, expansive vision of Social Security. They understood the phrase to encompass economic security that extended, in FDR’s words, ‘from the cradle to the grave.’ Indeed, in a 1938 speech, founder Molly Dewson, one of the three members of the Social Security Board (later replaced by a single Commissioner), defined Social Security to include education, a good paying job, housing, and guaranteed universal health insurance, as well as insurance against the loss of wages in the event of unemployment, old age, short- and long-term disability and death.

“In that 1938 speech, Dewson explained, ‘sickness compensation against loss of earning power during temporary or permanent disability [and] adequate medical care, including whatever medicines, treatment, and hospitalization are needed may still be mostly pious hope. But it is not a vain hope; both of these measures are already on the horizon.’ She was, of course, talking about what we today call Medicare and paid medical leave.

“If President Roosevelt and his colleagues were alive today, they would certainly recognize Social Security as fully consistent with their intent and their vision. They would undoubtedly be shocked, though, that so little progress has been made in the decades since 1935 when they laid down, in Roosevelt’s words, the ‘cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.'”

[Correction: Initial version of this news release incorrectly stated that it is the 53rd year of Social Security. It is in fact the 83rd year of that program. Medicare is in its 53rd year.]