What Is Social Security–and Why Is It Still Around?


Social Security has been around for a very long time. Started under Franklin Roosevelt in 1935, the program as it exists today encompasses numerous social safety net programs. The programs included under Social Security are often the target of partisan arguments about government spending, but in spite of this, the program still exists nearly 100 years after its creation.

So, what, exactly, is Social Security, and how has it managed to survive into the modern era? Let’s take a look at the programs included and how they function today.

Social Security Retirement Benefits

Most people in the US pay a sizable portion of their taxes into the Social Security retirement fund. This is the main branch of Social Security as it exists today, and the main reason it still exists despite partisan arguments over its usefulness. Everyone hopes to retire at some point, and that’s not inexpensive. A bit of extra help in the form of a collective fund to look after retirees is something that most politicians from either side of the aisle can agree to.

This portion of the Social Security Program takes in more than it pays out, and is overseen by both the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration. The average worker in the US pays just over 6 percent of their wages into this branch of Social Security.

Disability Benefits

Another major branch of the Social Security program is the disability benefits fund. Applying for Social Security disability benefits is infamously tricky, as the program is tightly regulated to ensure only legitimate cases are able to claim the benefits.

This program is meant primarily to help people with disabilities that keep them from working. In this capacity, it is seen as a way to help disabled people cover their basic bills, which proponents of the program argue is important for modern society. Opponents argue that this program could be defrauded by otherwise healthy people who simply don’t want to work.

How Has the Program Survived?

How has the program survived into the modern day? Many political scientists argue that the program is popular among older Americans, as it helps make retirement easier to manage.

Political polling indicates that retirement-age Americans are much more likely to vote than younger people. As such, it follows that any politician running on a platform of attempting to defund Social Security would naturally encounter resistance from a demographic they’d likely want support from.

So, while Social Security might not be the world’s leading social program, it’s managed to survive 86 years largely unchallenged in the United States. That, alone, makes it impressive.