Jimmy Carter photo

Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Social Security Amendments of 1977

December 20, 1977

THE PRESIDENT. Since the social security system was evolved under the administration of Franklin Roosevelt, it's been a sacred pact between the employees and the employers with the framework established and guaranteed by the Government to be sure that the working people of this Nation had some guarantee of security after they reached the age of retirement or after they were disabled and unable to earn their own livelihood.

In recent years, because of the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and the greatest inflation rate since the Civil War, the integrity of the social security system has been in doubt. This was an unanticipated drain on the resources of the reserve funds.

When I campaigned throughout the country for 2 years, one of the most frequent questions asked me by working family members and also by those who had already retired was what can be done to assure us that the integrity of the social security system will be maintained. It's a very difficult issue.

It is never easy for a politically elected person to raise taxes. But the Congress has shown sound judgment and political courage in restoring the social security system to a sound basis.

This legislation is wise. It's been evolved after very careful and long preparation. It focuses the increased tax burdens, which were absolutely mandatory, in a way that is of least burden to the families of this Nation who are most in need of a sound income.

The level of payments were raised for those who are wealthier in our country where they can most easily afford increased payments. In the past they've avoided the rate being applied to their much higher income than the average working family.

At the same time, the Congress has removed the unnecessarily stringent limits on how much a retired person can earn and still draw [from] the social security system for which that person has paid during his or her working years. The limit will now be increased to $6,000-per-year income over 2 or 3 years without losing social security benefits.

This legislation also moves to eliminate discrimination because of sex. It removes references to the sex of the recipient.

The most important thing, of course, is that without this legislation, the social security reserve funds would have begun to be bankrupt in just a year or two, by 1979. Now this legislation will guarantee that from 1980 to the year 2030, the social security funds will be sound.

I want to congratulate the congressional leaders assembled behind me here-the chairmen of the appropriate committees, Senator Long, Ullman, Tip O'Neill, our Speaker, Bob Byrd, Senator Nelson, and many other Members who have worked so long and hard to guarantee that this legislation might be passed. It was not an easy task, but I believe that everyone in this Nation who values the concept of social security has been well served. And I want to thank these courageous and farsighted congressional leaders for their bold and appropriate action.

[At this point, the President signed H.R. 9346 into law.]

Well, Mr. Chairmen, you all did a good job.

REPRESENTATIVE TUCKER. Mr. President, I am flattered. I guess as one of the younger members of this crowd and of the Congress--

THE PRESIDENT. You'll pay more into the system. [Laughter]

REPRESENTATIVE TUCKER. That's right. Frankly, I hope the time is not too far distant when I can pay more on my own salary, as younger people all over the country have to pay on their salary.

My father was manager of the social security system in Arkansas all of my life before his death. I grew up with a respect and understanding of social security and its importance for the working people of this country.

And I am very proud that it was a Democratic President, Democratic committee chairmen, Democratic congressional leaders, and a Democratic administration that could give us this painful but absolutely necessary help to the social security system of this country. It's why I supported you and voted for you. I knew you had the guts to do it. And I'm proud to be here today.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you, Jim Guy, very much.

SENATOR LONG. Mr. President, nobody really enjoys voting for taxes if he has to run for office. I know you know that as well as all the rest of us do. But in view of the fact that we are going to be paying anyway, I think that most people would prefer to pay a little more if need be, as they will, and have a sound program rather than be worried about whether or not the program will be financed.

Nelson Cruikshank and some others who were advocating the original social security bill are here, and Wilbur Cohen was here, who was part of it back at that time. And they advocated and visualized a system where people would be free of fear in old age. And that's what we're doing with this bill. We are proud to participate with you.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much.

REPRESENTATIVE ULLMAN. Mr. President, I am sorry that our subcommittee chairman, Jim Burke, isn't here.

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, I was hopeful he would be.

REPRESENTATIVE ULLMAN. He is back in Massachusetts, but he was chairman of the subcommittee. This has been a long, onerous, difficult task, as you know. It's never easy to set a program straight by adding taxes, but this does it in a very responsible way. And I wanted to mention Jim Burke; he's been very important in this operation.

THE PRESIDENT. I understand. Well, with the help of these same leaders of Congress in 1978 we'll have tax reductions--[laughter]--which for every taxpayer will result in a lesser tax burden, even in spite of the fact that this does increase taxes to some degree. But I know that all of these leaders will be working with me to give us a tax reform package in 1978 which will be more progressive in nature, that is, put the burden of taxation where it can best be borne, will be greatly simplified, and will also be substantially reduced. So, we are looking forward to good tax reductions in 1978.

REPRESENTATIVE ULLMAN. That will be easy to pass. [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you very much, everybody.

Note: The President spoke at 8: 30 a.m. in the Indian Treaty Room at the Old Executive Office Building.

As enacted, H.R. 9346 is Public Law 95216, approved December 20.

Jimmy Carter, Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony for the Social Security Amendments of 1977 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/243087

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