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Social Security Administration
August 12, 2010

Senator Mikulski made the following speech on the 75th anniversary of the Social Security Act.


"In the Great Depression, when people were losing their homes, losing their family farms, losing their hope, and America was plunging into despair and many were plunging into poverty. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the vision of a social worker named Harry Hopkins, came up with this idea to have a social safety net. And they wanted to give it a name that would not be politically charged. They called it Social Security.

"Well, Dr. Berkowitz will talk about the many battles to pass the legislation, they’re reminiscent of what we are today. But when that legislation was passed, little did those who participated then realize that it would be the safety net for millions and millions of people. And it continues; what it was in 1933 is better now in 2010. And what it did was make sure that if you were a widow, your children were taken care of. If you were disabled, you could have a social safety net. And that you could count on Social Security.

"Every single day in my office, we get calls about Social Security. All 435 members of congress and the White House and stuff get call about Social Security. And what is so great is that when we get those calls and we turn to the Social Security administration, we know that their calls will be answered. And what do people call about?  The kinds of stories the commissioner talked about: my mother, my father died, we don’t quite know what it is, and he never told her what she could get. You know those questions, you know those stories. But every single day, people call us because they’re in need. And what is so great about Social Security is that it can be counted on.

"And what also can be counted on is the people who work at Social Security. For those of you who have worked here, and maybe even in the audience there’s someone who’s worked 75 years. I know there are many in the audience who feel like they have worked for 75 years. (laughter) But while we salute the merits of the benefits, we have to also salute the people who work at Social Security.

"First of all, we want to salute the integrity of the workforce. When you apply for Social Security benefits, there’s no politics in this. When you sign up for the form, they ask your birth date. They don’t ask if you’re a Republican. They don’t ask if you’re a Democrat. They don’t ask what your political party is. They don’t ask what your religion is. It’s Social Security. It’s there for everybody. We don’t play politics with Social Security. I think that’s pretty impressive.

"And when you go to get Social Security, it’s not who do you know, it’s how many quarters do you have? (laughter) and when we look at Social Security and this fantastic campus here at Woodlawn, the data center, which we hope will come soon, and look out all over the nation, we want to thank those who are truly the claims authorizers. We want to thank all those who processed the claims. The attorneys, the accountants, the actuaries. We could just go through the A-words and salute all of those.

"We want to thank Jim Smith and Gov. O’Malley, who when the storms come, they make sure first of all, Jim Smith for providing the county services here. And then during those stormy days, keep the roads open, so that you can keep the doors of Social Security open and moving on.

"I was calling Janet Napolitano to ask for dough for snow, and they were out there getting the streets clean and all to be able to do that. But as we look forward to that, we know that you wanted to be on the job, so that you could do the job.

"More than 50 million seniors count on you for their Social Security checks, to pay their bills, buy their food and get their prescription drugs. Millions of disabled Americans rely on Social Security to make sure that safety net is working. You are the lifeline to people in need.

"Social Security is fantastic because it is a reliable, undeniable benefit. And it is a lifelong benefit. It is an inflation-proof benefit. And it is an all-American benefit.

"So when we look ahead now, Dr. Berkowitz will talk to you about the past. But we have to look ahead to the future. In December, a debt commission will be making its report on how we can deal with the debt and deficit of the United States of America. All things need to be on the table. Entitlements , as they’re called; defense spending; discretionary spending and revenue. I will tell you what I will be looking at.

"First of all I will have certain principles. No. 1: Don’t play politics with Social Security. (applause) No. 2: Don’t balance the budget and don’t deal with the deficit on the backs of Social Security.  Social Security is a (inaudible) No. 3: Always preserve the integrity of Social Security by making sure it is a guaranteed benefit, it is a lifelong benefit and that it is an inflation-proof benefit. And No. 4: Don’t privatize Social Security. And I might add: Don’t privatize the Social Security workers.

"You’re going to be very nostalgic about Social Security, and I love its past. But I will pledge here today: I will fight to preserve its future so that it maintains the integrity of a civil service, the integrity of the benefits, because it has to be backed by the integrity of the United States of America.

"Thank God for Social Security, thank God for the people who work here.