Here's How the Great Depression Brought on Social Security | History

NARRATOR: Social Security is a system where people pay

an extra tax on their payrolls and wages

to fund government assistance programs and benefits.

Today, money from Social Security payments

provides pensions to the elderly,

the disabled, the unemployed, and their dependents.

But Social Security hasn't always existed in America.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

changed all of that when he came into office in 1933.

FDR was not only tasked with helping Americans survive

the Great Depression, but also with figuring out

how to improve the lives of people in our rapidly

industrializing America.

How could America provide its citizens

with a social safety net if an economic downturn

were to happen again?

Upon taking office, he announced a New Deal, a series

of programs and projects that aimed

to provide relief for Americans and institute

crucial economic reforms.

However, critics complained that these measures

were too conservative and temporary in nature.

A variety of social safety net proposals

gained broad popular support across the nation.

So in 1935, FDR announced a second New Deal,

which included the Social Security Act,

signed into law on August 15.

Workers pay into pension funds.

And once they retire, they receive payments

back from that same fund in proportion

to their own payroll deductions over the years.

Implementing Social Security was not an easy task.

To secure the system against attacks

from its plentiful enemies in the Republican Party,

the Roosevelt administration set up the system as an insurance,

rather than a welfare program.

Every citizen was assigned a Social Security account number.

During the remainder of the 20th century,

Social Security went through many changes

as the act was amended several times.

The 1939 amendments added dependent benefits

for the spouse and minor children of a retired worker

and also survivors' benefits to be

paid to the family of a covered worker in the event

of premature death.

In 1950 and 1954, Congress made farm

and domestic service workers eligible for Social Security.

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower

signed into law amendments to the Social Security Act,

which established the Social Security

Disability Insurance Program.

Under President Johnson, the amendments in 1965

created Medicare, a basic program of hospital insurance

for persons aged 65 and older.

In 1983, under Reagan, further amendments

made Social Security payouts subject to taxes

and began to gradually raise the age of retirement.

To this day, Social Security remains a central part

of many elderly Americans' lives,

allowing them to feel some economic security

in their old age.

The proportion of retirees to workers on payrolls

increases as Americans live longer lifespans, leading

to increasing debate over the viability

of Social Security, the centerpiece

of FDR's New Deal legacy.