Today, I join 60,000 seniors in my Congressional District in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Social Security program. Over the years, Social Security has become a bed-rock promise to the American people. It's a promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you will not face poverty and destitution in your old age.
For three-quarters of a century, through 13 recessions, Americans have been able to depend on benefits that arrive on-time and in-full. In honor of this milestone, I vow to continue fighting to preserve this program for generations to come and protect it from those who want to undermine and dismantle it.
Over the years, Democrats have fought long and hard to improve and strengthen Social Security; from expanding and fine-tuning it in the 1950s and 1960s, to preserving its solvency in the 1970s and 1980s. In 2005, when President Bush tried to subject the program to the whims of Wall Street through privatization, Democrats stepped in and saved Social Security from this effort to destroy it.
For my own part, I have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to strengthen our system, and better protect the surviving spouses of Social Security beneficiaries. H.R. 5001, the BASIC Act, helps senior citizens by paying surviving spouses a month-of-death benefit check, and by increasing the additional benefits received by the spouse on the month a social security beneficiary dies. This new benefit check is calculated by pro-rating the monthly check based on the days in the month-of-death the beneficiary was alive. I firmly believe that the families that rely on Social Security deserve a little extra help after the loss of a loved one.
While our current budget deficit is a situation that must be addressed, we cannot allow Social Security to be privatized. Imagine for a moment President Bush's plan to privatize Social Security in 2005 had become law. Seniors would have lost billions of dollars in Social Security income along with any retirement savings they had when the economy collapsed at the end of the Bush years. Thankfully, even when the stock market plunged and the housing bubble burst, there was one thing America's seniors could count on: Social Security.
Let's use this 75th anniversary to recommit ourselves, both Democrats and Republicans, to strengthening the Social Security system for future generations. The good news is that the Social Security Trust Fund has reserves of $2.6 trillion, which continue to earn interest. This is enough to pay out benefits until the year 2037. But the best way to strengthen social security is to advocate for policies that promote budgetary responsibility and create more jobs. I am proud to say that I have worked with President Obama to push an agenda that is strong in both these areas.
For 75 years, Social Security has never been a day late or a dollar short. It is one of the foundations of our society, based on the premise that if you do the best for your country you should have the stability and security of guaranteed income in your older years. We must preserve Social Security for generations to come, and strongly reject all attempts to privatize and dismantle it.