When President Franklin Roosevelt launched Social Security, he said it would ensure that an elderly American need not "spend his aged years in the poor house."
But a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that poverty among elderly Americans is rising. The study found that 9 percent to 15 percent of America's elderly are poor, with the rate in Pennsylvania at 14 percent.
Although Congress is considering cutbacks in Social Security, these numbers argue that it should be increasing the investment in the program.
Private retirement systems that helped sustain many retired Americans have largely vanished. Millions of dollars in private savings were wiped out in the crash of 2008 and subsequent recession.
The nation cannot go back to pre-New Deal standards for old-age security. It cannot have Americans who worked all their lives suffering from malnutrition in their "golden years."
The New America Foundation proposed an $11,699 flat annual benefit for retired workers, beyond existing Social Security benefits. One way to afford this is by means-testing Social Security to make it progressive.
If that were enacted by Congress, the widow living on Social Security alone would get a supplemental income, while billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates get zip. Franklin Roosevelt would approve.