Social security is a response to the inability of 1920’s era private and state assistance agencies to meet the need of a growing impoverished, unemployed, and elderly populace (Popple & Leighninger, 2015). This New Deal program, while mostly associated with retired elderly, offers a multitude of functions to those who are either physically or mentally disabled, child welfare services, vocational rehabilitation, and assistance to sole parents who struggle to meet the needs of their children. In essence, there are two components of social security inclusive a social insurance component and a social welfare component. It differs in many ways from other government programs in that it combines entitlement and social welfare within the same program (Popple & Leighninger, 2015).
This combination of social programs makes social security one of the most politically polarizing federal programs. Those who feel social security, which is essentially a self-funded/government funded pension plan for some, and a welfare program for others, sit on opposite side of the isle when debating the merits of this social insurance program (Popple & Leighninger, 2015). Notwithstanding the enormous amount of debate surrounding social security, there is funding debate that approximates a 2039 date where lapses in funding will cause the program to not meet its payments to beneficiaries (“SS Policy Options,” 2014). While some attribute underfunding to rampant abuse and overpayments to those who used the program as a charity, my personal assertion is simply the contributions of automation i.e., computers and the Internet required fewer people working who, in turn, made fewer contributions to the social security pool.
When life expectancy jumped to its present level of over 70 years from its 1930s era age of 61, there is no wonder why the program funding is reduced (“SS Policy Options,” 2014). Actuaries and politicians are in spirited debate of fixes for the system. These policies, however, are mired in political influence with conservatives calling the entitlement program component of social security untouchable for cuts while demanding the charitable component is stripped away. The juxtaposition is ironic as both programs represent entitlements where beneficiaries typically receive a benefit at the expense of the government, albeit after a varying degree of beneficiary contribution.
The perception of the social security program is mixed. Some see it as an entitlement-based program where after one makes contributions, she is entitled to receive a return on investment. This return amounts to drawing payments at age 65. Others perceive the program for its anti-poverty status. On the negative end of the spectrum, this latter perception provides fodder for those who oppose helping those in financial need. These people argue that social security has amounted to a welfare state where government benefits surmount hard work. In all, this perception becomes skewed by those with agendas that support or decry public assistance programs.
Popple, P. R., & Leighninger, L. (2015). The Policy-Based Profession: An Introduction to Social Welfare Policy Analysis for Social Workers (6th ed.). Upper Saddle, New Jersey: Pearson.
Social Security policy options. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.cbo.gov/publication/21547
Respond to a colleague by explaining a strategy for how a social worker might help clients manage these perceptions, given the differences your colleagues described.
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