Spurred on by this excellent MyFDL piece, which cites this deceitful New York Times Op-Ed piece, I have decided to address what may be the most pernicious lie told about Social Security — namely, that it wasn’t originally designed to take the aging of America’s population into account. As Alternet’s Lynn Parramore, writing for Salon, notes, this is bogus:
On our red-herring tour, let’s start with the oft-repeated claim that the original designers of the program did not consider rising life expectancy in their calculations. Fortunately, public records pertaining to the lengthy and detailed discussions of the Roosevelt administration’s Committee on Economic Security (CES), tasked with constructing proposals for Social Security, are available for anyone to see. It is absolutely clear from the record that the designers knew that the number of people over the age of 65 was going to increase and that people were going to live longer.There were differences – as there are now – on exactly how to project this demographic shift, but the idea that a growing rate of older folks taking payouts was bound to happen was a topic of intense scrutiny. Consider the Old Age Security Staff Report, dated January 1935:
“At the time of the last Census (1930) there were six and a half million people 65 years of age and over in the United States. They constituted 5.4% of the population. As a result of a declining birth rate in this country, which manifested itself about 1820 and persisted from that time, the ratio of aged persons has shown a continuous growth from the date. The increase was very slow for 40 years, more rapid from 1860 on, and noticeably accelerated between 1920 and 1930. The latter was due to a rather sharp decline in birth rate which set in about 1920. This decline is expected to persist, moreover, and will of course produce a correspondingly sharp increase in the ratio of the aged to the population as a whole. The recent improvement in mortality rate makes its contribution to this situation.”
That’s right: Not only did the designers know full well that a larger population of older folks was coming, they actually made projections based on that assumption well into the future. They even produced a handy table which projects that increase all the way up to 1980, anticipating a 140 percent increase in the 60 years following 1920.
There. Had to get that out of my system.