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Dennis: Social Security has stood the test of time

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Skeptics of man-made global warming put great weight on the fact that doomsayers’ predictions so seldom pan out. The true test of any model is its ability to accurately predict the future; and when a prediction points north but the future unfolds south, the model rightly gets questioned.

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Tom Dennis With that in mind, consider Alf Landon, the Republican presidential candidate of 1936, who called Social Security “a cruel hoax” and a “fraud on the working man.”

Consider Depression-era Sen. Daniel Hastings, R-Del., who claimed that Social Security would “end the progress of a great country and bring its people to the level of the average European.” And Harper Sibley, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce from 1935-37, who said Social Security would bring about “more unemployment in the future, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

And Rep. John Taber, R-N.Y., who said of the then-new program, “Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers.” And the American Institute of Economic Research, which in 1939 predicted that because of Social Security’s method of financing, “it will be impossible to maintain the standard of living which we have at present, to say nothing of regaining that which the country enjoyed in 1929.”

Well, some 70-plus years have passed, plenty of time for the working man to wake up to this fraud (Social Security remains hugely popular), the golden-egg goose to be well and truly cooked (America retains the highest gross domestic product in the world), 1929 to loom ever larger in our rear view mirrors (not happening, either there or on our iPad screens) and so on.

So, who in the 1930s had a better idea of what was to come? In truth, it was Franklin Roosevelt himself, who said, “We can never insure 100 percent of the population against 100 percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.”

A Ponzi scheme? No. Instead, Social Security has offered “some measure of protection ... against poverty-ridden old age” for nearly 80 years. History suggests it will keep doing so for many decades more.

Dennis is the opinion editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is a part of Forum News Service.

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