The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both the severe inadequacy and major inequities in our country's caregiving infrastructure, including the high out-of-pocket costs of long-term services and supports (LTSS). For many families, care demands may become unmanageable, or manageable only at significant cost to family members’ health, well-being, income, and careers.
Emphasizing stakeholder voices and new partnerships The Academy’s 33rd annual policy conference, Pathways to Economic Security: Bringing All Voices to the Table, was held virtually on March 2-4, 2021. Stakeholders' perspectives led policy conversations around economic security throughout the keynotes, panel dialogues, and workshops. (While we are all stakeholders in economic security
A new study indicates that the United States continues to lose ground when it comes to addressing inequality. According to the latest report from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) released in September 2019, the gap between the richest and poorest U.S. households is now the largest it has been in the past fifty years. Despite a national economy with low rates of unemployment, more than ten years of consecutive growth in gross domestic product (GDP), and median household income at an all-time high ($61,937 for 2018), disparities in income along racial, generational, and geographic lines grew.
A defining trait of severe recessions is the staggering levels of long-term unemployment that follow. During the last recession, between 2008 and 2009, 8.4 million jobs, or 6.1% of all payroll employment at the time, were lost. Prior to the last recession, the largest share of the unemployed experiencing long-term unemployment was 26.0% in the early 1980s. The same long-term unemployment rate exceeded 40% into the early 2010s, amounting to over 4%of the entire labor force, and is only now falling to pre-recessionary levels.
The political air is charged these days with claims that various policy ideas, like Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal, are “socialistic.” Such charges have been made in American history since the late 19th century, often in response to bold new policy concepts put forward to address gaps in income and health care security. This leads us to revisit a fundamental question – what differentiates Socialism from Social Insurance?
Social Insurance as Collective Action
In the words of Robert M. Ball, Founding Chair of our Academy: “Social insurance derives its unique strength from the principle that the best form of self-protection is mutual aid on a universal scale; when everyone contributes, everyone can be protected.” Academy Member and historian Edward D. Berkowitz also quotes Bob Ball:
With most Americans focused on taxes this month, it’s a good time to take a look at the relationship between federal income taxes and social insurance contributions.
Overview of Federal Taxes and Distributional Effects
The latest report by the Joint Committee on Taxation, Overview of the Federal Tax System As In Effect for 2019, provides a comprehensive starting point. This report breaks out the current federal tax system into four elements:
The Academy’s 31st annual policy conference – Regenerating Social Insurance for Millennials and the Millennium – was by all measures a success. It represented a different approach to one of the Academy’s signature events in both style and substance.
“Universal basic income” (UBI) has only recently come into popular usage, but the idea of assuring a base level of income to all is not new. Social insurance programs have been performing a similar function for much of the last century. Social Security and Unemployment Insurance both provide a base level of income given one’s eligibility for receiving benefits. The latter part of the statement is, of course, a defining characteristic of traditional social insurance—eligibility is contingent on one’s paying in.
For all of us who are dedicated to the Academy’s mission – “increasing public understanding of how social insurance contributes to economic security” – 2019 has the makings of a challenging year.
One of the top challenges facing us as we begin a new year is to develop and refine a common language that connects with the public at large. When distraction, detraction, and discord seem so prevalent in the nation’s political discourse, we need new ways to refocus the conversation on unifying issues that matter most to many. When it comes to providing greater economic security and reducing inequality in our nation, we need to reframe how we discuss social insurance, so that its enduring value as shared protection will be communicated more effectively.
If we were to measure the American people’s current understanding of social insurance, what might we find?
Kathryn Edwards is an Associate Economist at the RAND Corporation. She is a member of the . After working as a research assistant at the Economic Policy Institute from 2008-2011, Ms. Edwards attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she received her Ph.D. in Economics. Along the way, Edwards was a graduate fellow of the Institute for Research on Poverty and a summer fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.