Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Social Security at 80: A pillar of economic security for Americans

In August 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed The Social Security Act, establishing a national plan to provide economic security for the nation's workers. The program's 80th anniversary is a good time to review the popular safety net.

At the end of 2014, 59 million people were receiving Social Security benefits: 42 million retired workers and their dependents, 6 million survivors of deceased workers, and 11 million disabled workers and their dependents. Meanwhile, 166 million workers had earnings covered by Social Security.

Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system, which is funded by payroll taxes. Every employee (and employer)...