Happy 75th birthday, Social Security!

Seventy-five years ago this month, during the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law one of the most significant pieces of legislation in American history: the Social Security Act of 1935. Not only did it create a government insurance program to provide retirement incomes for seniors, it also set up a national unemployment-insurance program and provided aid to the children of widows and single mothers.

Social Security was as controversial in its time as health-care reform is today. It was strongly opposed by the Republican Party and the mainstream business community, who predicted that it would bankrupt the country. The American Medical Association condemned it as a “compulsory socialistic tax.” The Republican candidate for president called it a “fraud on the working man.”

Instead, today it is a fundamental component of the nation’s social contract. The lesson of Social Security at 75 is clear: Government programs to rectify the imbalances of unbridled capitalism are good for all Americans.