By Sean J. Miller - 08/14/10 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama praised Social Security as the “cornerstone in the
foundation of America’s middle class” and warned against what he called
Republican efforts to privatize the program.
“It’s right up there on their to-do list with repealing some of the Medicare benefits and reforms that are adding at least a dozen years to the fiscal health of Medicare,” he said in his weekly address, broadcast Saturday. “That agenda is wrong for seniors, it’s wrong for America, and I won’t let it happen.
Obama's speech coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act, which was signed into law by Franklin D. Roosevelt on Aug. 14, 1935.
The program ensured a steady income for American retirees but there's a growing consensus some changes are needed to sustain benefit levels.
The president promised to work with both parities to reform the system — although he never used the words sustain or preserve in his address — adding he was “encouraged by the reports of serious bipartisan work being done on [it].”
The program allows seniors to “retire with dignity,” he said. “We have an obligation to keep that promise.”
Obama’s speech followed a Friday conference call his party organized with James Roosevelt Jr., the grandson of FDR. He called for the program to be preserved as a public trust.
Democrats have spent the week suggesting Republicans want to
eliminate the program, which is popular with seniors, a key voting
Despite the controversy, most experts agree some kind of change is needed to the program, which will face a solvency crisis within three decades.
“Beginning in 2025, trust fund assets will diminish until they become exhausted in 2037,” according to the 2010 report of the board of trustees that oversees the program. After 2037, existing tax revenues would support only 78 percent of benefits. That drops to 75 percent in 2084 as the tax revenue from the working population decreases in relation to retirees.
Some Republicans have advocated raising the retirement age or switching to a system of private accounts. And Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R) released a new TV ad this week pledging to “save” the program by “locking the lockbox, putting the money back into the trust fund.” The term “lockbox” was popularized by Vice President Al Gore during the 2000 president election.