Social Security has become an indispensable part of the American social safety net, but it’s also something we often take for granted. Listen to Rick Smith tell the story of the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, and what it has meant to Americans ever since.


On this day in Labor History the year was 1936.

That was the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

The act was a key piece of the President’s “New Deal” a series of federal programs responding to the ravages of the Great Depression.

Social Security would provide an income for retirees and the disabled, to ensure they did no slide into complete destitution.

On signing the bill, President Roosevelt, known for delivering memorable speeches, addressed the press.

He said, “Today, the hope of many years’ standing in large part fulfilled.  The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, had tended more and more to make life insecure.  Young people have come to wonder what will their lot when they come to old age.  The man with a job has wondered how long that job will last.  This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to 50 million of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old age pensions, and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.”

He went on to say, “The law will flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and inflation. It is, in short, a law that will care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

Over the past few decades, politicians, have increasingly sounded the alarm that Social Security will not remain viable as the large baby boomer generation retires and draws benefits.

Yet despite those who seek to attack Social Security, it remains a bedrock of the social safety net for millions of Americans.


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