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Social Security turns 80 today. Is it here to stay?

According to a new poll, over half of all working Americans doubt they will receive Social Security benefits at the end of their careers. 

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    In this Aug. 14, 1935, photo President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Social Security Bill in Washington. Social Security turns 80 Friday, and the massive retirement and disability program is feeling its age. Social Security’s disability fund is projected to run dry next year. The retirement fund has enough money to pay full benefits until 2035. But once the fund is depleted, the shortfalls are enormous.
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Is social security here to stay? Most working Americans are dubious.

In commemoration of the 80th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Social Security Act, the research company Gallup released a poll finding that over half of all working Americans doubt they will receive social security benefits at the end of their careers. Meanwhile, around two-thirds of Americans said they believe the Social Security system is in serious trouble. With social security set to become a big talking point in the upcoming presidential elections, the fate of the system is sure to be on the minds of many. But although many Americans are doubtful that social security will stand the test of time, experts say they’re confident American voters will continue to push for its continuation.

“Despite the challenges facing Social Security, it will not burn out or fade away. Its existence is fundamental to the social compact in the United States that we will take care of our sick, our poor, and our elderly,” wrote Jamie Hopkins for Forbes.

“With nearly one third of retirees getting almost all of their income from Social Security, a complete dissolution of the system would create an unbearable situation of personal suffering and new societal costs that may create a far worse scenario than increasing taxes and modifying benefits,” he added.

Changing demographics have led some experts to question whether the social security system will be able to pay its recipients their full benefits in years to come. But despite the economic uncertainty, many left-leaning Americans support the expansion of social security benefits.

A recent survey from the non-profit group the American Association of Retired Persons found that 61 percent of Americans believe Social Security's current benefits, which average around $1,332 per month, are too low. Meanwhile, 51 percent of Americans would like to see taxes raised in order to provide benefits.

Their position, championed by Democratic party leaders including Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley, may succeed in pushing the remainder of the Democratic Party in that direction, potentially leading to a tax hike to fill the gaps, experts say.

“In February, the Center for American Progress—founded by Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and currently headed by her longtime policy adviser Neera Tanden—put out a report highlighting income inequality as the source of Social Security's financial problems. One of the implied solutions then was raising taxes on the rich,” noted Dylan Scott for the National Journal.

But despite this overwhelming support for social security, faith that the system will be revived promptly remains dismally low. The Gallup survey relieved that 66 percent of Americans surveyed in July and August said that the system is in a state of crisis.

Still, this could just be business as usual. As Daniel White pointed out for Time magazine, “at least two-thirds of Americans have believed that retirement benefits were in jeopardy since 1998.”

Nevertheless, many Americans still plan to use social security benefits to fund their retirement.

As Janet Novack noted in a piece for Forbes

“No wonder Americans are so worried about retirement. A new survey shows 80% of them are planning to rely on Social Security benefits  ‘substantially’ or ‘somewhat’ in retirement (or already do so).  But only 42% are ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ confident in the program’s future.”

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