Today, Americans everywhere can celebrate 78 years of Social Security.

When the Social Security Act was signed into law in 1935, almost half of all older Americans lived in poverty. At first, Social Security was just a retirement program. Today, it offers survivors’ benefits, benefits to a retiree’s spouse and disability benefits.

Social Security is a foundation of economic security for millions of Americans and their families. In Maine, one-third of those 65-plus who are on Social Security rely on their benefit for 100 percent of their income. Without Social Security, more than 80,000 older Mainers would fall into poverty.

As we look at ways to strengthen Social Security now and for the future, let’s remember that Social Security hasn’t contributed one dime to the nation’s budget deficit. It is a self-financed program, not a piggy bank for deficit reduction.

Washington should leave Social Security out of the deficit debate so we can find responsible, sustainable solutions now and for the future. The so-called “Chained CPI” proposal we are hearing about will cut benefits. It will hurt seniors, women, people with disabilities and veterans who’ve sacrificed so much for this country.

As we celebrate 78 years of Social Security, let’s make sure Washington does not make decisions about its future without hearing from us first. Citizens can make their voices heard at www.earnedasay.org.

Meredith Tipton

AARP Maine, executive councilor

South Portland