On Wednesday, August 1, dozens of summer interns and young professionals gathered at the 2018 Summer Social Security Academy in Washington, DC to engage in thoughtful discussion about the features and future of Social Security. Guided by actuaries from the Social Security Administration (SSA), participants explored policy options to address the adequacy of benefits and achieve long-term financial balance. For attendees, it was a brief glimpse into the frequent discussions that take place on Capitol Hill and in policy circles around the country.
Last Thursday, big thinkers from around the country joined the Academy in Washington, DC to discuss how Social Security policy could respond to prevailing demographic, economic, and workforce trends. Video of the event can be accessed here. The policy options discussed were not the familiar “Lego pieces” of Social Security policy, as AARP’s Chief Public Policy Officer, Debra Whitman, put it in her closing remarks at the forum.
Having recently completed my first year as the Academy’s Chief Executive Officer, I’ve reflected on my many interactions with Academy Members at our annual Membership meeting, Policy Conference, 30th Anniversary celebration, and other events that we have sponsored, as well as emails and phone conversations.
Among the questions most frequently posed to me are:
- Why has the Academy chosen “inequality” as our overarching strategic theme and framework?
- What does this mean for the Academy’s policy work?
I first addressed this issue in a letter to the New York Times published in February 2015.
During the 2016 campaign, President Trump promised not to cut Social Security. Yet the White House’s FY 2018 Budget proposes up to $64 billion in cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) expenditures. The cuts stem mostly from measures to “test new program rules and processes and require mandatory participation by program applicants and beneficiaries,” with the objective of moving disabled beneficiaries from the SSDI program into fuller labor market participation.
As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us recall the contributions to our nation’s vibrant social insurance infrastructure by those women who are no longer with us, but whose legacies remain strong.
Among these often unsung heroines are:
Sunday, August 14 is the 81st anniversary of our Social Security system. While few of us were alive to celebrate the system’s first anniversary in 1936, even fewer have living memories of the social problems that gave rise to it. At the time, half of all seniors were living in poverty, individual retirement savings plans like 401(k)s were 40 years away, and depression-era workers were having a hard enough time providing for themselves and their children, let alone supporting their parents and grandparents. What are we to make today of a program that was created in an almost unrecognizable industrial economy?
Thoughtful commentary on how we got from there to here
In a recent issue of the Boston Review, Elizabeth Anderson, Professor of Philosophy and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, wrote a provocative analysis ("Common Property: How Social Insurance Became Confused with Socialism", 7-25-16) of the origins and evolution of social insurance worldwide and in the United States. Her article includes key points that are critical to an understanding of the positioning of social insurance in our economic and political system, and in our culture. She poses a fundamental question: Why does the U.S. lack a comprehensive, universal social insurance system?
Income, Health, and Wealth Inequality Emerge as Strategic Focus of Academy Following January Policy Research Conference
A blizzard dropping nearly 28 inches of snow did not stop hundreds of social insurance experts from participating in the Academy’s 28th annual policy research conference last week, Disparate Income, Wealth, and Opportunity: Implications for Social Insurance. Co-chaired by Kilolo Kijakazi of the Urban Institute, Maya MacGuineas of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and David Colby, the two-day conference – built upon two Fall convenings on the same topic – ushered in the Academy’s new strategic focus on income and wealth inequality. Participants, including new and veteran Academy members, came together to share views from both sides of the aisle on income, wealth, gender, and racial/ethnic disparities and how social insurance and other public policies can play a role in mitigating them in fiscally sustainable ways.