In the less than 100 years Social Security Insurance has existed, the entire ideology of Social Security Insurance has changed, and is now more synonymous with “welfare” and “entitlements” than the platform for success and financial fortification it was always intended to be when early policy creators instituted the programs.
If you take a look back far enough, you can actually see that these changes started to take place right around the end of the Great Depression, merely 10 years after they were originally established. At the time, President Roosevelt and the administration recognized the desperate need to prevent such events from ever happening again. This prompted the immediate institution of various assistance programs in which poverty status was the determining factor for financial aid – programs that we’re officially acknowledged as “Welfare.” However, contrary to what many people believe now, the original intent of these social insurance programs was never to purely be poverty relief, but rather a stepping-stone to greater financial security for all. By the 1970s, social insurance programs such as unemployment, disability, Social Security retirement, and Medicare started facing increased backlash for being nothing more than “entitlements” contributing to the nation’s overwhelming spending crisis – a perception that has persisted, and even worsened, today.
In reality, social insurance is just that, insurance. Its purpose is strictly to protect citizens against financial risk. Individuals contribute to a collective fund, and receive assistance based on need when they need it, whether it’s in the event of old age, the death of a breadwinner, or even a disability. The only real differences between it and conventional insurance is that contribution amounts are not determined by a contributor’s risk profile but rather by income, and the system mandates participation to ensure its longevity.
What We Lost
Over the years, the core values of social insurance and what its true purpose is has been greatly distorted. Rather than understanding what actual social insurance is and how it works, people are becoming increasingly fearful of “running out of money” despite the fact that they’re still making contributions. One things for sure, although social insurance does not seem to be in any theoretical danger, greater understanding is needed if our country is ever to make any adjustments or revisions to these indispensable programs.