006 American Government-Economics
Most of the problems of the United states are related
to the economy. One of the major issues facing the country
today is social security.
The United States was one of the last major
industrialized nations to establish a social security
system. In 1911, Wisconsin passed the first state workers
compensation law to be held constitutional. At that time,
most Americans believed the government should not have to
care for the aged, disabled or needy. But such attitudes
changed during the Great Depression in the 1930's.
In 1935, Congress passed the Social Security Act. This
law became the basis of the U.S. social insurance system.
It provided cash benefits to only retired workers in
commerce or industry. In 1939, Congress amended the act to
benefit and dependent children of retired workers and widows
and children of deceased workers . In 1950, the
act began to cover many farm and domestic workers, non
professional self employed workers, and many state and
municipal employees. Coverage became nearly universal in
1956, when lawyers and other professional workers came under
Social security is a government program that helps workers and retired
workers and their families achieve a degree of economic security. Social
security also called social insurance (Robertson p. 33), provides cash
payments to help replace income lost as a result of retirement,
unemployment, disability, or death. The program also helps pay the cost
of medical care for people age 65 or older and for some disabled
workers. About one-sixth of the people in the United States receive
social security benefits.
People become eligible to receive benefits by working in a certain
period in a job covered by social security.
Employers and workers finance the program through payroll taxes.
Participation in the social security system is required for about 95
percent of all U.S. workers.
Social security differs from public assistance. Social security pays
benefits to individuals, and their families, largely on the basis of
work histories. Public assistance, or welfare, aids the needy,
regardless of their work records.
All industrialized countries as well as many developing nations have a
social security system. The social security program in the United states
has three main parts. They are (1) old-aged, survivors, disability, and
hospital insurance (OASDHI), (2) unemployment insurance; and (3)
THE SOCIAL SECURITY PAYROLL TAX
This tax was to be taken from the payrolls of the nation's employers and
employees. The government felt that, like unemployment benefits, the
social security should be financed by those who got the greatest
benefit, those who worked, and were liable to need those benefits in the
A plan that would affect those only who had paid such a tax for a
number of years would have done those who were currently suffering under
the Depression no good at all. As a result, the social security plan
began paying out benefits almost immediately to those who had been
retired, or elderly and out of work, and who were unable, primarily
because of the depressed economic conditions, to retire comfortably. In
this way, the government was able to accomplish two objectives: first,
it helped the economy pull out of the depression, by providing a means
by which old people could support themselves and, by buying goods and
services, support others in the community ; and second, it showed the
younger workers of that time that they no longer had to fear living out
their retirement years in fear of poverty.
Therefore, the social security payroll tax has been used to provide
benefits to those who otherwise would have little means of support, and
as of this writing, there has never been a year when Social Security
benefits were not paid due to lack of Social Security income. (Boskin
PAYING OUT BENEFITS
Social Security benefits increased 142% in the period between 1950-1972.
not only the elderly, but many of the survivers, the widows and children, of
those who paid into the
Social Security system, have received social security checks. These
checks have paid for the food shelters, and in many instances the
college education of the recipients.
Unlike private insurance firms, the United States Government does not
have to worry about financial failure. Government bonds are considered
the safest investment money can buy-so safe, they are considered "risk
free" by many financial scholars. (Stein p. 198) The ability of the
United States Government to raise money to meet the requirements of the
social security should be no more in doubt than the governments ability
to finance the national defense, the housing programs, the State
Department, or any of the other activities that the federal government
gets involved in.
By paying out benefits equally to all participate in Social Security-
that is by not relying so heavily on total payments in making the
decision to pay out benefits, the system is able to pay benefits to
people who otherwise may not be able to afford an insurance program that
would provide them with as much protection. One of the main reasons for
the government's involvement in this program, is its ability and its
desire to provide insurance benefits for the poor and widowed, who under
the private market, might not be able to acquire the insurance to
continue on a financially steady course.
The government, then, is in a totally unique position to pay out
benefits that would be out of the reach of many American families.
Another great advantage of this system,
is the ability of the government to adjust the benefits for
the effects of inflation(Robertson p.134)
INFLATION AND SOCIAL SECURITY
Private insurance plans are totally unable to adjust for the effects of inflation with complete accuracy. In order for an insurance company to make this adjustment, they
would have to be able to see forty-five years into the
future, with twenty-twenty vision. When a private pension
plan currently insures the twenty-year-old worker, it can
only guarantee a fixed income when the worker reaches sixty-
five and a fixed income is a prime victim of inflation
(Robertson p.332) In order to adjust for that inflation, the
private insurance firm would have to be able to predict what
the inflation rate will be from the moment the worker is
insured until the day he dies, and then make the complex
adjustments necessary to reflect this in the pension plan.
An inflation estimate that is too small will result in the
erosion of the workers retirement benefits.
Because the government, unlike the private insurance
firm, can guarantee that it will exist well into the future, and will
have the continued income of the Social Security tax to draw upon, it
can make on-the-spot adjustments for changes in the inflation rate. Some
adjustments, in fact, have been automatic in the recent years, therefore
relieving the pensioners of the periodic worry of whether this years
benefits would be adjusted, or whether the level of payments would
remain stable, thereby, relative to the cost of living, making them
poorer that ever before(Stein p.28).
In the face of the government's ability to make those
necessary adjustments and to continually finance the Social
Security program, many opponents of the system argue that
the government programs are driving out the private
insurance industry. The statistics remain otherwise.
SOCIAL SECURITY FINANCING
The social security tax is one of the fewest taxes in
the United States, and the only federal tax in the country,
that is given for a specific purpose. All other taxes are
put into another fund, so that welfare programs, defense,
space projects, and the other categories of government
spending are all financed from one giant, uncategorized bowl
of tax revenues(boskin p.62).
When the Social Security system was first established,
it was felt that a direct payroll tax, based on the pay of
the worker and paid both by employer and employee, would be
the fairest way for the people that were currently working
to pay benefits to those who weren't working, as well as to
provide for some future requirements and disabilities.
Therefore, a specially constructed payroll tax was used
to fund the program.
By measuring the amount taken in by the tax to the
amount, not only that is taken out, but to the amount that
will be taken out in future years, opponents of the Social
Security system make the case that the system will be unable
to keep itself in such a manner indefinitely. And, if
Social Security were a private insurance program, it
wouldn't. But the fact is that Social Security is not
a private program. it is funded by the government.
Further, the government is in a unique position to
change the laws of commerce and contract to adjust the
system, making it more responsive to the needs of the
retired, which, in turn, would reduce their need for the
Social Security benefits. For example, the United states
Government should raise the mandatory retirement age. By
raising the age to sixty-eight, the Social Security System
could delay paying out benefits for several years to
thousands of people, saving the system a significant
amount of money in benefits.
For these reasons, the government is in a position
which cannot be compared to private industry. In this sense,
looking at social security as an insurance program
and comparing it to other insurance programs in the private
system could easily give the impression that the system is
gong bankrupt, when in the reality it isn't.
THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL SECURITY
The thing to keep in mind about the Social Security
system, then, is this: the system itself is in no
fundamental danger of collapse. There is only temporary,
cash flow situation that must be carefully looked at.
The federal government pays out 4.5 billion more in Social
Security benefits as it collects in taxes every year. In
fact, $4.5 billion is a small price, compared to the other
programs the federal government now finances from general
revenue. Besides tapping the general revenue fund and
raising the retirement limit to 68 or even 70,the government
has the option of raising the Social Security tax or even
reducing the benefits slightly. The government has so many
options with regard to financing the benefits that the
question becomes of the cash management, not quite as
significant as the huge deficits that the Social Security
has been accused of having.
The government is already under way to help alleviate
this cash flow problem. Public officials have debated which
of the various ways would help best serve the public
interest, and legislative action has been taken that would
ultimately result of the Social Security system to a
positive cash base. This shift would provide the workers of
America with the same benefits they have been guaranteed
since 1935- and have been paid, and expanded ever since.
The social security system has withstood forty years of
changing economic conditions and greater concern of public
welfare. What would replace the system, if the critics had
SOCIAL SECURITY PERSPECTIVES
The social security system has saved an untold number
of people from disaster throughout many years. Many of the
nations old people- some as young as sixty-two, a few over
a hundred, live from Social Security paycheck to Social
security paycheck, with this government program as their
livelihood. There can be no doubt that social security has
made a tremendous effort to alleviate a lot of suffering
that has occurred, even in recent times.
The Social Security act was one of the cornerstones of
Roosevelt's new deal program, and it is one of who's
necessity has been proven, and whose usefulness has allowed
it to live. Like all the other new deal projects,
Social Security was never meant to show a financial profit,
It was meant to show a profit only in the amount of human
suffering, It was able to lift. The social security program
cannot be measured in the same manner that a private program
can be evaluated in, because it is a governmental welfare
program. which doesn't mean that it acts in competition with
private programs, that was never its intent. The social security
administration has written:
"Today the American economic system has produced
relatively full employment, widespread ownership property, and a
rapidly increasing standard of living for the majority
of Americans. It has developed a threefold structure to
prevent economic insecurity: a public social objectives,
mutual protection through private employee-benefit plans to
bring the added strength of voluntary of group action:
and private savings and other individual action to achieve
the greatest range of choice".
One only has to look at the number of people, and the
amount of money, that those who are recipients of Social
security effect, and the advantages of Social Security
become obvious: it has taken a group of people who have
traditionally been a financial burden on society, and
provided a program that they have contributed a little
to their own financial well being. the amount of dignity
and self respect these people have gained cannot be measured