Social Security was established in the 1930s during the Depression. After people stopped working, they had no financial security, so many were living in poverty. Though the program began as a way to provide retirement income, other programs of entitlement were eventually added, including disability insurance. Social Security is funded by taxes, so a portion of an employee's paycheck is withheld.
This Social Security system worked effectively for decades, but in recent years, the program has raised debate. The biggest problem now is that the United States has an large aging population, with baby boomers hitting retirement and gaining Social Security benefits. According to the Federal Interagency Forum of Age-Related Statistics, there are 37 million people 65 and older. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts that there will be 86.7 million by 2050.
The number of retirees will rise much faster than the number of people in the workforce, so using taxes from employee paychecks to fund the program is becoming a problem. And keep in mind that Social Security now covers more than just retirement. Disabled workers, dependents, spouses and children, and survivors of deceased workers are also included, so the amount of money required to fund the program is immense.
To learn more about the Social Security debate, read through the following Web resources.
An index with a wealth of information, including links to magazines and think tanks and a library of Web resources to research the Social Security issue.
Social Security Online
The official government site for the Social Security program contains great information for those unfamiliar with how Social Security works. There's a FAQ list, glossary of relevant terms, special sections for women, disability benefits, history, news updates, and resources for children and teachers.
The Social Security Network
The self-proclaimed source for "information, analysis and expert commentary on the Social Security debate" lives up to its own standard. Sponsored by The Century Foundation, the site contains news and policy updates, a special section to separate myths and realities and insight to the major players in this debate.
Social Security Reform Center
A good source of information containing an overview, the history, problems and potential solutions to the Social Security system, and what you can do to help.
National Center for Policy Analysis
The NCPA seeks "innovative private-sector solutions to public policy problems." In this case that means privatization of Social Security. At this site there is a "Social Security Calculator" that allows you to enter your age, occupation and earnings, and then compare your Social Security earnings to the potential of a private retirement account, according to NCPA calculations.
The Cato Institute
The D.C.-based think tank offers its suggestions for Social Security reform, particularly privatization. Features include polls and surveys on the matter, columns and commentaries, a calculator to estimate potential benefits and the impact of reforms on women, minorities and the overall economy.