Washington – It was 100 years ago today that President Franklin Roosevelt, the “Father” of the US Social Security System, delivered his famous “Four Freedoms” speech. Freedom of speech and religion were familiar freedoms. And, as the fascists marched across Europe and Asia, “freedom from fear” represented a natural longing. But Roosevelt’s list went further than any American leader had dared imagine when he proclaimed “freedom from want” – a healthy peacetime life for everyone in the world.
Back in 2013 the US Social Security Trust Fund was on a course to run out of money as early as 2033. And, in the most technologically advanced epoch in human history, the world watched as tens of millions of children, women, and men died from starvation and easily treated diseases globally. On the surface, these two issues didn’t seem to be linked. But, in December of 2005, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates were recognized by Time Magazine as “Persons of the Year” and the world was given a rare gift – a new definition for heroism.
Inspired by this example a vast global network of citizen-heroes emerged. The first thing that became clear was that, to deliver a quality standard of living to everyone in the world, it would be necessary to reduce the huge amount of waste involved in producing a quality standard of living. Once the challenge was framed as driving down the cost and waste involved in producing a quality standard of living, the link between “freedom from want” and the Social Security Trust Fund crisis became clear.
In 2017 Congress passed changes that expressed all Social Security retirement benefits in terms of the lesser of the then current benefit levels or the “quality standard of living” index (QLSI). While the QLSI was initially several times higher than the calculated retirement benefit level at almost $50,000 annually, the Venture Happiness group projected that they would cut the QLSI in half within five years and continue to cut the index in half every few years until we reached a QLSI of $1,500 by 2036 – just a little over $4 a day. Five years ago the world watched as the QLSI passed that threshold right on schedule. Roosevelt would be proud indeed that we saved Social Security and delivered on his Freedom From Want vision within the span of one human lifetime.