Nervous Obamacare supporters should know the history of Social Security

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WASHINGTON -- Website problems have plagued the rollout of President Barack Obama's signature health care reform law, imperiling the promise of new health insurance policies for 7 million Americans by the end of next year.

Big problems are not unusual for big, new programs. The technology involved may be different, but previous expansions of the safety net have all suffered glitches. Even Social Security, the first and arguably the most successful federal social program, faced serious challenges before the first monthly retirement checks went out in 1940.

"There was a lot of doubt about whether it was the right thing to do and whether they could do it," Edward Berkowitz, a history professor at George Washington University, said in an interview. "They somehow managed to solve the technical problem."

It wasn't easy. After Congress passed the Social Security Act in 1935, a nascent Social Security Board faced a daunting task: enrolling 26 million industrial workers in less than a year, and another 2.5 million each year after that. One major problem: A lot of people had the same name....




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