August has no national holidays, but there's one day I think every American should celebrate. That's August 14: Social Security's birthday. Today, the dependable family protection plan is 81 years young. Polls show it's more popular than ever. It's loved by young and old, Democrat, Republican and Independent.
Why that's so is no mystery. For millions of American workers, Social Security is the only pension plan and the only insurance policy -- protecting their family in the event of their death or disability. Benefits are earned with every paycheck. If you work and pay into the system, you can expect a benefit.
One of the key strengths of Social Security is that it's a nearly universal system. It touches all of us and brings us together as a national community. It symbolizes our core values - a tangible example of neighbor helping neighbor, generation helping generation. Social Security is an important way in which Americans protect each other from the hazards of life.
Unlike some other benefit programs that help the poor, Social Security was designed to keep Americans out of poverty. It helps Americans at all income levels, but is most critical for those in the middle, who can easily lose their standard of living when paychecks stop. Fear of a shrinking middle class and what that means for a nation that was built on a growing middle class is at the center of all the volatility. So why has Social Security largely been left out of the conversation? There's no better example of a system that serves the middle, as well as those striving to get there.
That's why Social Security should be a major focus in every election year and it should be part of the political conversation. We should all ask ourselves which candidates for President and Congress give Social Security the respect it deserves. Which candidates truly recognize this compact between the government and its people and will honor the sacred promise that Social Security represents? If a candidate for office doesn't "get" that concept, do they really understand what the American people want and need from their leaders?
During this campaign, it's clear that only one candidate "gets it": Hillary Clinton. if you care about protecting and strengthening Social Security, you should support Hillary Clinton. Time and again, she has defended Social Security against Republican attacks; time and again, she has said that she won't cut Social Security, that she'll expand it; and time and again, she has underscored that we all have an obligation to each other - that America is at is best when we stand together. This is a stark contrast to Donald Trump, who has called for privatizing Social Security and raising the retirement age to 70, and who has repeatedly dismissed concerns about seniors being unable to afford retirement, telling them to "just keep working."
Social Security is a "big tent" program. It's one of the ways that America shows we're all in it together. It's amazing that one system offers so many answers - not only for the problems we face as individuals, but for our nation as a whole. Social Security provides income to those who age out of the workforce, clearing the way for younger workers to move up in the job world. It does the same for workers who become disabled and can no longer hold the job that supports their family. When a bread-winning parent dies, Social Security provides benefits to their children. All this from a system that's self-funding, paid for by the paycheck contributions of American workers.
Clearly, if we didn't already have Social Security, we'd have to invent it. It's a pillar of the American economy. In times of recession, when fewer people are working and when 401(k)'s are losing value, Social Security checks keep on coming. That translates into more dollars spent in our communities. Local businesses can stay open and continue to pay their workers, which helps lift the entire economy.
So today, on Social Security's birthday, we should all look back and thank the geniuses who devised this ingenious system. Hats off to FDR, Frances Perkins and all their colleagues who made it possible. But tomorrow, we need to pivot to the future, because Social Security is timeless and has answers that transcend time and space. Let's build on its solid structure and expand its benefits. Let's find new ways for Social Security to help us solve our problems. Let's make Social Security part of the political conversation in 2016. We can do it together.