* 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.
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