According to USA.gov, “Social Security is a program run by the federal government [that] works by using taxes paid into a trust fund to provide benefits to people who are eligible.” This program, created as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and authorized by the Social Security Act of 1935, is the largest government program in the United States.
Funded by a payroll tax of current workers, those who qualify and are 1.) currently retired, 2.) people with disabilities, or 3.) the surviving spouses and children of workers who have died are eligible to receive an annuity. Specifically, according to the Social Security Administration, the program is financed through a dedicated payroll tax, where “employers and employees each pay 6.2 percent of wages up to the taxable maximum of $147,000 (in 2022), while the self-employed pay 12.4 percent.” In effect, “Social Security is more than just a retirement program…it also provides important life insurance and disability insurance protection” (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).
While the entitlement program has operated with minimal change since its inception, increasing costs, a growing disequilibrium in payers to payees, and longer life expectancies have placed the future of Social Security in question. At present, the program’s trust fund is expected to be exhausted by 2037, at which point benefits to current and future beneficiaries will be immediately reduced by 15%-20% (Social Security Administration).
So, what should be done? Differing perspectives argue for raising the retirement age and reducing benefits or cost of living adjustments, while others argue for increasing and widening payroll taxes and improving operational efficiency. This deliberation includes twelve video clips, one article, and several educational activities to guide students through a review of the history of Social Security and the contemporary arguments regarding the future of the federal entitlement program. After a careful review of multiple perspectives, students will determine what should be done about Social Security and be presented with several optional extensions to take an active role in the debate.
Objectives and Outcomes
- Students will be able to describe key vocabulary terms and concepts associated with the debate surrounding the future of Social Security.
- Students will be able to identify and explain aspects of the Social Security debate including those of revenue and benefits.
- Students will be able to evaluate arguments relating to the future of Social Security and formulate an opinion on this question.