Friday, March 9, 2012

Social Security

In the United States, Social Security refers to the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program. The original Social Security Act (1935) and the current version of the Act, as amended encompass several social welfare and social insurance programs. The larger and better known programs are:

* Federal Old-Age (Retirement), Survivors, and Disability Insurance
* Unemployment benefits
* Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
* Health Insurance for Aged and Disabled (Medicare)
* Grants to States for Medical Assistance Programs (Medicaid)
* State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
* Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
* Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Social Security is a social insurance program that is primarily funded through dedicated payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax (FICA). Tax deposits are formally entrusted to the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, the Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, or the Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund.

The main part of the program is sometimes abbreviated OASDI (Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance) or RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance). When initially signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal, the term Social Security covered unemployment insurance as well. The term, in everyday speech, is used to refer only to the benefits for retirement, disability, survivorship, and death, which are the four main benefits provided by traditional private-sector pension plans. In 2004 the U.S. Social Security system paid out almost $500 billion in benefits.

By dollars paid, the U.S. Social Security program is the largest government program in the world and the single greatest expenditure in the federal budget, with 20.8% for social security, compared to 20.5% for discretionary defense and 20.1% for Medicare/Medicaid. Social Security is currently the largest social insurance program in the U.S. where in 2003 combined spending for all social insurance programs constituted 37% of government expenditure and 7% of the gross domestic product. Social Security is currently estimated to keep roughly 40 percent of all Americans age 65 or older out of poverty. The Social Security Administration is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, just to the west of Baltimore.

The 2011 annual report by the program's Board of Trustees noted the following: in 2010, 54 million people were receiving Social Security benefits, while 157 million people were paying into the fund; of those receiving benefits, 44 million were receiving retirement benefits and 10 million disability benefits. In 2011, there will be 56 million beneficiaries and 158 million workers paying in. In 2010, total income was $781.1 billion and expenditures were $712.5 billion, which meant a total net increase in assets of $68.6 billion. Assets in 2010 were $2.6 trillion, an amount that is expected to be adequate to cover the next 10 years. In 2023, total income and interest earned on assets are projected to no longer cover expenditures for Social Security, as demographic shifts burden the system. By 2035, the ratio of potential retirees to working age persons will be 37 percent — there will be less than three potential income earners for every retiree in the population. The trust fund would then be exhausted by 2036 without legislative action.

Proposals to privatize Social Security recently became part of the Social Security debate during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies. In addition, on February 18, 2010, President Obama issued an executive order mandating the creation of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which made ten specific recommendations to ensure the sustainability of Social Security.

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