HYDE PARK, N.Y. — The young, the old and the elected celebrated the 50th anniversary of Social Security today, praising the program that has paid out $1.8 trillion in benefits and pledging its good health "for the next 75 years."
Social Security, signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Aug. 14, 1935, to protect against "the hazards and vicissitudes of life," has weathered several recent attempts to cut its benefits.
Several speakers and many people in the audience of 4,000 who gathered at the Roosevelt family estate urged a continuing fight against any reduction of benefits.
"This is a wonderful celebration," Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. said. "These events are a reminder for people and elected representatives of the importance of maintaining and strengthening--and yes, even improving--the Social Security system."
Roosevelt, 65, one of the late President's three sons, was joined by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) and Robert F. Wagner Jr., son of the former New York City mayor whose grandfather introduced the Social Security bill in the Senate.
Pepper, 85, the oldest member of Congress and a spokesman for the nation's elderly, noted that attempts were made in 1981 and 1983 to cut Social Security benefits and said those attempts were defeated and that the system is in sound condition.
"Take my word for it, Social Security will be good for the next 75 years," said Pepper, who cautioned people to beware of "sinister attempts to slash benefits."
The program has paid out $1.8 trillion in benefits to 115 million people since it began in the depth of the Great Depression.