John O'Connor

A notable anniversary took place when the Social Security program recently turned 78.

People often disagree about how well this program has worked and whether it should be allowed to continue. But any provider who sees the program as less than a blessing sorely needs to stop looking into this horse’s mouth.

The program has helped dramatically improve the quality of life that many of your residents have enjoyed. It has also – directly and indirectly – put a lot of money into your organization’s coffers.

That noted, plenty of people outside the provider community see the program as just this side of evil. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and others have made a fair amount of political hay lately by pointing out its uncombed hairs. In their world, it should be privatized, if not canceled outright. Well, their views are certainly protected by the First Amendment. But as the adage goes, they can pick their opinions, not their facts, such as:

• When Social Security was implemented during the Great Depression, the prevailing poverty rate among senior citizens was north of 50%.

• More than 57 million Americans benefit from the program.

• It provides about two-thirds of the income that people over age 65 receive.

• For more than a third of those same people, Social Security constitutes 90% or more of income. (By the way, the highest monthly amount is $2,533. The average monthly benefit for a retired worker is about $1,261.)

• Without Social Security benefits, 44% of the elderly would be poor. 

That is not to say Social Security’s challenges should be overlooked. The program only has enough money to pay every retiree 100% of benefits through 2033. Without adjustments, retirees will get three-quarters of benefits after that. 

The end of Social Security would be a disaster for providers. And it would be a tragedy for the nation’s seniors. It is far from perfect. But for many of our nation’s seniors, life without Social Security would be far more difficult.