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An American Philosophy of Social Security: Evolution and Issues

An American Philosophy of Social Security: Evolution and Issues

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    An American Philosophy of Social Security: Evolution and Issues
    Book Description:

    Is our system of social security, which involves an annual dispersement of thirty billion dollars, as effective and as equitable as it might be? J. Douglas Brown's analysis of the policies of this program and the philosophy on which it was built offers insights into its relation to our social and political systems.

    He was one of a small number of people who drafted the original Social Security program enacted in 1935.

    He views a national welfare system as a necessary adjunct to our national system of social insurance (Social Security, Medicare, etc.) and fears that without it the role of social insurance to prevent dependency may be distorted. Social insurance, according to Dr. Brown, should extend normal self-sufficiency when contingencies interrupt income normally received, whereas public assistance should remain distinct from social insurance and protect those unable to support themselves.

    Dr. Blown also addresses himself to the questions of graduated income as a source of social insurance revenues, determination of benefits as related to an individual's imputed needs based on his average earnings, and permanent vesting of pension credits accrued under private programs.

    The most urgent need is tor a better distribution of health services to alleviate a situation in which doctors are seemingly more concerned with preserving an obsolete but lucrative system of compensation than with cooperating to reorganize an essential service.

    Originally published in 1972.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6755-4
    Subjects: Business, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Foreword
    (pp. v-viii)
    J. Douglas Brown

    It has been the author’s intention in writingAn American Philosophy of Social Securityto assist the concerned layman in understanding one of the most important developments in American social legislation in this century. The book is neither a technical analysis nor a detailed history, but attempts the more difficult task of distilling from the author’s involvement in the planning of the social security program since its beginnings an organized series of concise essays which emphasize the broad sweep of evolution of the system and the major issues which have been resolved or are still to be decided.

    To maintain...

  2. CHAPTER I The Genesis of Social Security in America: An Intimate Account of a Critical Period, 1934-35
    (pp. 3-24)

    Social security has now become a common and comfortingexpressionin the American language. More important, it has become a meaningfulfactorin meeting the contingencies of life for nine out of ten Americans. In 1934, this vast enterprise in preventing hardship and dependency was but a tenuous idea in the minds of a few deeply concerned individuals. Seldom in modern times has an idea, hammered out by a small group of planners, become in a single generation such a pervasive and practical part of the way of life of a people. “Social security” is now taken for granted. In...

  3. CHAPTER II The American Social Security Program Today
    (pp. 25-42)

    Even to those who have been closely concerned in the development of the American social security program since its beginnings in 1934, the present size and scope of the program’s operations seem too vast to have been the result of the ideas and efforts described in the last chapter. A closely interlocked system of protection in old age, survivorship, disability and sickness, touching the lives of practically every family in the United States, has grown out of the limited and hurriedly designed version of old age insurance planned and enacted in the hectic months from September 1934 to August 1935....

  4. CHAPTER III The Process of Implementing a Philosophy: The Role of Advisory Councils, 1937-71
    (pp. 43-54)

    Before entering upon an analysis of the particular elements of philosophy and policy which have been implemented in the evolving structure of the American social security system, or of other policies which, it is believed, should guide its further growth, it is relevant at this point to outline the special conditions which have surrounded the process of moving from ideas to implementation in this area of government activity. In social planning, as in cooking, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there are many recipes in the cookbook which fail to produce expected results. The interplay of...

  5. CHAPTER IV Issues Concerning the Function and Scope of OASDI: The Proper Relation to Public Assistance
    (pp. 55-64)

    From its earliest development in this country, the purpose of contributory old age insurance has been to build a middle layer of protection for persons in old age which lies between the residual, lower layer of protection provided through relief or assistance on a needstest basis and an open-end, upper layer of protection acquired by private initiative and by private mechanisms. This three-layer approach has become commonly accepted in principle, but the precise boundaries of the three layers will continue to be subject to debate. In identifying the proper function and scope of contributory social insurance in contrast to other...

  6. CHAPTER V Issues Concerning the Function and Scope of OASDI: The Proper Relation to Private Mechanisms for Protection
    (pp. 65-80)

    One of the toughest battles in the legislative development of the Social Security Act in 1935 was over the issue whether the new federal old age insurance program should parallel rather than undergird industrial pension plans. Through the proposed Clark Amendment, an effort was made by certain representatives of the insurance industry to include in the Act a provision whereby approved company group annuity plans could substitute for compulsory coverage under old age insurance.

    The supporters of an effective social insurance program vigorously opposed the Clark Amendment for several reasons. Most pressing was the fear that such an amendment, by...

  7. CHAPTER VI Issues Related to Contributions by Workers and Employers:
    (pp. 81-95)

    Compared to poor relief or public assistance, social insurance is a very specialized social instrument. To understand its special character, it is necessary to understand its long evolution from the various types of mutual aid societies whereby workers joined together to protect themselves against the hazards of life and industrial employment. Whereas poor relief and assistance grew out of the compassion sanctioned by religion or the policy of governments in avoiding the untoward repercussions of indifference to the needs of the poor, social insurance had its roots in the desire of gainfully employed workers to protect themselves. Social insurance, therefore,...

  8. CHAPTER VII The Issue of Financial Support of Social Insurance by Government
    (pp. 96-110)

    It is an unfortunate paradox that the assumptions which led workers and progressive employers in America to accept the imposition of contributions through payroll taxes for the support of an old age insurance program have, from the first, proved to be obstacles in persuading the American people that the government should also participate in the financing of such a program. The concept of mutual benefit and social contract which had long justified contributions on the part of workers to social insurance programs encouraged many inside and outside of government to assume that social insurance was a pseudo-private insurance scheme benefiting...

  9. CHAPTER VIII General Issues in Respect to the Contingencies Covered under Social Insurance
    (pp. 111-115)

    In order to determine the contingencies against which social insurance can effectively provide protection, it is necessary to define the essential elements of the mechanism. First, under social insurance as a form ofinsurance, there must be an insurable risk, that is, something concrete and definite which is lost under conditions beyond the control of the insured. Both the thing lost and the fact of loss must be clearly ascertainable and susceptible to actuarial estimate. In the area of human experience normally associated with social insurance, the things insured against are the loss of earnings previously available through gainful employment...

  10. CHAPTER IX The Determination of the Contingency to be Covered under Old Age Insurance
    (pp. 116-130)

    Since 1935, when social insurance was instituted to indemnify the loss of earnings because of age, it has been expanded to cover wives, widows, widowers, children, and dependent parents of primary beneficiaries under prescribed conditions. The establishednormalage of eligibility—that is, the age at which full benefits are provided—remains 65, but eligibility for reduced benefits has moved down from 65 to 62 for primary beneficiaries and their wives. Widows are now eligible for a full widow’s benefit at 62 and a reduced benefit at 60. Disabled widows or disabled, dependent widowers may receive reduced benefits, based upon...

  11. CHAPTER X The Coverage of Dependents and Survivors
    (pp. 131-150)

    No aspect of the early history of the American social security program illustrates more clearly the climate of desperate urgency in which the old age staff of the Committee on Economic Security labored in the fall of 1934 than the absence in the original Social Security Act of any effective social insurance mechanism for protecting the dependents or survivors of those covered under old age insurance. Time was short and the staff minuscule. A radical innovation, contributory social insurance, had to be sold to the Administration and Congress as a proper instrumentality of the national government. Issues related to constitutionality,...

  12. CHAPTER XI The Coverage of the Disabled
    (pp. 151-162)

    The essential logic of protecting workers against the loss of earnings and self-sufficiency because of the onset of permanent and total disabilitybeforenormal retirement became clear to the planners of the American social security program once the possibility of an integrated national system of social insurance became evident. The members of the staff of the Committee on Economic Security assigned to the problem of insecurity in old age were fully aware of the need for such protection and of the fact that foreign social insurance systems covered the risk of permanent disability. But, in 1934, the center of political...

  13. CHAPTER XII The Determination of Individual Benefits
    (pp. 163-178)

    An important decision of the staff of the Committee on Economic Security assigned to old age security in 1934 received little attention at the time but has had fundamental effect on the OASDI system ever since. It was that a system of flat benefits under old age insurance, such as that in Great Britain, was not appropriate for the United States. It was early recognized that a single flat rate of benefits for a country as diversified as the United States would fail to meet the needs of those living in the high-cost urban areas of the North East while...

  14. CHAPTER XIII The General Problems of Financing the OASDI Program
    (pp. 179-193)

    Social security in the united states, as implemented by the Social Security Act of 1935, had its genesis in the midst of a vigorous debate on how a contributory social insurance system should be financed. The question was not whether payroll taxes on employers and employees should provide the funds, at least for some time to come, but rather how to balance income and outgo over the long future. A great national compulsory system of insurance was such a novel concept that many leaders in government were unable to grasp the fundamental difference between it and a vast enlargement of...

  15. CHAPTER XIV The Evolution and General Structure of Medicare
    (pp. 194-209)

    The history of the development of health insurance in the United States is an example of the power of an obdurate and entrenched minority to hold back progress for the vast majority of a people. This entrenched minority has been not so much the thousands of individual physicians in this country who were too busy with their day-to-day practice of medicine to be concerned with the overall distribution of medical care, but, far more, the leaders they permitted to represent them at the various levels of “organized medicine,” county, state, and national. The American Medical Association, instead of concentrating its...

  16. CHAPTER XV Health Care: The Expanding Frontier of Social Security
    (pp. 210-227)

    As one reviews the history of social security in the United States, it becomes obvious that in one of the most important areas of human need, that for adequate health services, we have introduced social insurance by the back door. Instead of attacking the need for the insured sharing of risks of health costs for all of our citizens, we have, after a prodigious effort, succeeded in securing partial protection for our old people against these risks by a bifurcated, clumsily financed system of Medicare. The needs of the old for health protection had become all too obvious. Cash benefits...

  17. CHAPTER XVI The Essentials of an Effective Program for Social Security in the United States
    (pp. 228-233)

    Since the great depression of the early 1930’s, the United States has moved a long way in developing an effective national system of social security. It still has a long way to go. In the progress of organized societies, the past is prologue for the future. It is well to sharpen up the lessons learned in the past in order to apply them to the future. The most important lessons learned from the past are those which define a philosophy. A tested and consistent philosophy is the basis of sound and effective policy. In no area of national concern is...

  18. Appendix Selected Readings on Social Security Philosophy and Policy in the United States
    (pp. 234-240)