Frances Perkins was FDR’s Secretary of Labor – the first woman in US history to hold a cabinet position. Coming out of the Great Depression, she was a chief architect of the New Deal, and we can thank her for the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, and unemployment insurance. She was also the head of the Committee on Economic Security, which created the blueprint for Social Security. God bless Frances Perkins.
FDR and Frances Perkins established Social Security because, as FDR said, “It [would] take care of human needs and at the same time provide for the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.” In other words, Social Security would be a win-win: good for our nation’s economy and good for the citizens of our nation.
They knew that Social Security was about economics, but it was also about our values. It’s about who we are as a people, and what kind of country we are determined to build.
Today Social Security is under attack. The Republicans are doing everything they can to privatize and cut benefits for millions of seniors who rely on Social Security to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
80 years later, we need Social Security more than ever. People are hitting their retirement years with less savings and more debt. Pensions are disappearing, being replaced by 401(k) plans that leave retirees at the mercy of the stock market. The squeeze on America’s middle class is now a squeeze on America’s retirees.
Social Security benefits are modest – just $1300 a month, on average – but two-thirds of America’s seniors rely on those checks for the majority of their income. For 15 million seniors, Social Security is all that stands between them and poverty.
Social Security is about independence and dignity. It’s no surprise that 79% of likely voters in last year’s election – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents – support increasing Social Security benefits. Every person who represents you in Washington, and every person running for President in 2016, should be talking about protecting and expanding Social Security – not cutting it.
FDR and Frances Perkins knew that you don’t get what you don’t fight for. So today, I’m fighting hard to make sure we don’t cut a dime of Social Security benefits. I’m fighting to protect and expand Social Security – and I hope you’ll fight alongside me.
Decades after Social Security was established, Frances Perkins told the Social Security Administration:
Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political party, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.
Let’s fight to make good on Frances Perkins’ promise by protecting and expanding Social Security.
Thank you for being a part of this, and a special thanks to Frances Perkins – a tough woman with a vision. Happy birthday, Social Security!