* What is Social Security? *
Social Security evoked a wide variety of social insurance and public assistance programs. The term "Social insurance" refers to government programs providing benefits to people who have earned the right to those benefits through their work. Typically, funding for social insurance comes from earmarked payroll taxes ("contributions") levied on workers and/or their employers. Social insurance is not means tested. In other words, regardless of their means - rich, poor, or anywhere in between - workers and their families receive payments form social insurance if they fulfill a set of pre-defined requirements. Today, the Social Security Administration administers three social insurance programs: retirement insurance (originally known as old-age insurance), survivor insurance, and disability insurance - usually collectively called Social Security. Other examples to social insurance in the United States include Medicare's Hospital Insurance program, Railroad Retirement, veterans' benefits, unemployment insurance, Black Lung benefits, and worker' compensation.
* The Evolution of Social Security *
When President Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, social security was far from a radical - or even novel - concept. Social security-like government programs had already been around for two millennia. Great Britain started unemployment and disability insurance in 1911 and added old-age and survivors insurance in 1925. By 1933, at least 39 countries operated security programs to some kind for old-age and/or unemployment. Closer to home, Thomas Paine made the first proposal for social security in the United States in 1795. Abe Borts, official historian of the Social Security Administration from 1963 - 1985, saw each of the following programs as significant steps toward the development of social security in the United States: pensions for disabled Revolutionary War veterans, 19th century government health programs for merchant seamen, and post-Civil War pensions for disabled Union Army veterans and their widows.
* The Great Depression *
The economic depression of 1930's contributed to the passing of the social security legislation. While Roosevelt was still a governor and Herbert Hoover was still Pres., the need for social security became critical. The stock market crashed, and the economy collapsed. The unemployment rate grew to 25%, and only 25% of the unemployed received any kind of assistance.
After several years of Depression, many younger people could no longer help their older relatives. Private charities were strapped. So were the few local-government relief agencies. Despite the country's economic ills, passing social security legislation would not be easy. The United States was hardly a hot of leftist politics. In the 1932 Presidential election, conservative Republican Herbert Hoover, after four miserable years as President, received nearly 16 times as many votes as the Communist and Socialist combined. Many conservatives believed tat social security would start the country sliding down as a slippery slope to socialism. Perhaps most importantly, despite the fact that most of the rest of the industrialized world accepted social security, social programs ran contrary to the enduring American principle of rugged individualism. Private charity was morally acceptable, as was private insurance, but government social programs were not. The idea that the federal government head any responsibility at all for the welfare of individual citizens was still strange to many people. In spite of the miseries arising out of the failures of the free enterprise system, the belief persisted that every individual could make his own way in the world and if he failed, it was his own fault.
* Summary of Event *
The general economic Depression of the decade undoubtedly contributed to the moment needed to pass social security legislation. Old-Age Revolving Pension Club was lobbying for a monthly two hundred dollar grant for every citizen over sixty. By the 1930;s. almost half the states had some kind of old-age pension, but these were generally limited in scope. it was not until 1934 that President Roosevelt decided to take in the field of social insurance legislation. He asked Congress to look into all aspects of social security In June, 1934, he established the Committee on the Economic Security with Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins as chairwoman. The Social Security Bill was submitted to Congress in January, 1935, by Senator Wagner and Congressman Lewis. The air was filled with warnings that the act would destroy individual responsibility and the principles to self-help, but it was passed in the Senate by 76 votes to 6 and in the House by 371 votes to 33. On August 14, 1935, Roosevelt signed the measure.