Make us your home page
Instagram

PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact: Newt Gingrich correct on Social Security claim

CNN Coverage of the State of the Union in Washington, D.C. on January 28th, 2014. Newt Gingrich broadcasts from the D.C. bureau.

CNN

CNN Coverage of the State of the Union in Washington, D.C. on January 28th, 2014. Newt Gingrich broadcasts from the D.C. bureau.

The statement

"We adopted the modern Social Security system at a time when the average person died before they were old enough to get Social Security."

Newt Gingrich, Dec. 2 in a radio interview

The ruling

Social Security today is not the program President Franklin D. Roosevelt had in mind when he signed it into law in 1935, according to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"We adopted the modern Social Security system at a time when the average person died before they were old enough to get Social Security," he said during a Dec. 2 interview on the John Fredericks Show, broadcast in Virginia.

"We now have some people who are living 50 years on Social Security," Gingrich said. "Nobody ever tried to design a system like this, and we're going to have to rethink our whole approach."

We wondered if Gingrich was right about life expectancy falling short of Social Security age in 1935.

The bill signed by Roosevelt offered benefits to retirees when they turned 65.

U.S. life expectancy for a person born in 1935 was just under 62 years, according to records from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, girls were expected to live to 64 and boys to 60.

We were curious whether the retirement age was set purposely at 65 to deprive most people of receiving Social Security. Did Roosevelt make this calculation?

"Certainly the Roosevelt administration did not," said Edward Berkowitz, a professor of public policy at George Washington University and author of several books on Social Security.

"My understanding, that I received from longtime Social Security actuary Robert Myers, was that the age 65 had no particular significance and was chosen because a choice needed to be made and (it) seemed reasonable."

Myers, who died in 2010, helped to write the Social Security law and in a 1992 memoir offered a simple explanation for how the Roosevelt administration chose the qualifying age for benefits.

"Age 65 was picked because 60 was too young and 70 was too old," he wrote. "So we split the difference."

Berkowitz told us that life expectancy at birth — then and now — "is not a good measure of how many people who are working and paying into Social Security will die before age 65." That's because the life expectancy average is skewed by infant deaths. After infancy is survived, life expectancy goes up.

That said, we'll give you one final set of numbers. Average U.S. life expectancy from birth in 2015 was 78.8 years, according to figures just released by the National Center for Health Statistics. It declined from 78.9 in 2014 — the first drop since 1993.

We rate Gingrich's statement True.

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Newt Gingrich correct on Social Security claim 12/15/16 [Last modified: Friday, December 16, 2016 3:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood

    Business

    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa

    Business

    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.