Social Insurance

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All Social Insurance Commentary

Saving SSDI

SSDI, or, the Social Security Disability Insurance program, may soon encounter some changes in the form of funding. Apparently the trust fund that finances the program is set to run out of money on nearly the same day as the 2016 presidential election. While some reforms have been taken to preserve the program and its recipients, TCF fellow Harold Pollack explains that a major shift must be enacted in order to keep program revenues flowing and recipients insured. 

Given SSDI’s immediate shortfall and the possibility of chronic deficits, it is sensible to reallocate payroll taxes as the Obama administration suggests, to avert an immediate shortfall. Over the long-run, though, our entire Social Security system, including SSDI, needs greater revenues in some form to maintain its fiscal stability. We would be wise to raise these revenues sooner rather than later.

Pollack's article is featured in The Atlantic. You can read the full SSDI piece here.

Who will care for my brother-in-law Vincent?

TCF fellow Harold Pollack comments on the fate of individuals who are the recipients of intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) services. In his article for the Chicago Sun Times, he describes the unfortunate circumstances of some states' tax laws that result in minimal funding for allowances and other disability services.

Residents of intermediate care facilities received $30. Imagine if that were all you had for an entire month to cover everything from the copayment on some medicine, a dental visit, the occasional tee-shirt or pair of socks, cup of coffee, or trip to McDonald’s.

Read Pollack's full Opinion article.

Tags: intellectual disability, disability services, disability program, budget deficit, allowance

Book Review: We Are Better Than This

Writing for the CFA Institute, Matthew Gelfand reviews TCF fellow Edward Kleinbard's We Are Better Than This: How Government Should Spend Our Money. Gelfand discusses the significance of Kleinbard's book for the financial industry.

"Kleinbard has written two books in one. The first is a philosophical road map of the progressive case for economic policies on income distribution, infrastructure spending, and social insurance, among others. This discussion is of less utility to financial analysts but—despite Kleinbard’s clear philosophical leanings—is worth mentioning here because his comments on the topic establish that he is a nonideological student of fiscal policy."
"The second book-within-a-book will be of interest to financial analysts who want to understand the mechanics of fiscal policy. It is an informed instruction manual that draws on a large body of data and insightful analysis yet drives forward in layman’s terms rather than economic jargon."

The rest of Gelfand's review is available here.

Tags: tax system, tax reform, social security, fiscal policy, economic policy

Supply-Side Social Insurance Simply Doesn’t Work

Social safety net programs in the United States are indeed helpful, but by no means are they an adequate policy solution to lifting every family above the poverty line. TCF fellow Mark Thoma says that social insurance programs are not just a quick fix, but an true investment in our future, therefore need to not be taken lightly.

Even if the number had been calculated correctly, it would overstate the true cost of social insurance programs due to the failure to consider “dynamic effects.” That is, these programs don’t just provide income to struggling households in times of need, income that can have a valuable stimulative effect during economic downturns; social insurance programs are also an investment in our future.

Read Thoma's article from the Fiscal Times.

Tags: supply side, social safety net, social insurance, middle class, food stamps

The Double Standard of Making the Poor Prove They’re Worthy of Government Benefits

There are two types of government benefits that are disbursed to citizens, but the recipients of each of these are treated differently depending on their income level. Welfare recipients are often observed with more scrutiny, as if they are expected to not use their benefits properly. The other group of recipients, that is those receiving Pell grants or mortgage loans, are paid less attention to because these types of benefits are part of what TCF fellow Suzanne Mettler calls the "submerged state."

Many, many Americans who do receive these other kinds of government benefits — farm subsidies, student loans, mortgage tax breaks — don't recognize that, like the poor, they get something from government, too. That's because government gives money directly to poor people, but it gives benefits to the rest of us in ways that allow us to tell ourselves that we get nothing from government at all.

Find out more about the "submerged state" from this Washington Post article.

Tags: welfare applicants, subsidies, submerged state, poor families, government services

Five Key Lessons About the Welfare State

There is much more to the welfare state than meets the eye. A recent New York Times article details the five key lessons pinpointed by scholars that can be taken from past social welfare policy. TCF fellow Suzanne Mettler is cited in the article saying that welfare can be combatted by just blocking changes to current policy, such as what might happen with today's Republican controlled Congress.

Rather than directly assaulting the welfare state, those seeking to remake the American political economy have mostly outflanked it, relying heavily on tactics of gridlock-inducing policy drift to produce major changes in taxes, industrial relations, corporate governance, and financial regulation that have been highly beneficial to the most affluent.

Here is the entire article.

Tags: welfare, state spending, social welfare, congress


Social Insurance

Social Insurance

Compared to other advanced nations, America’s retirement security and health care systems offer weaker protections against risks we all face. The Century Foundation’s work focuses on ideas for strengthening Social Security, pensions, and health care – including steps for building on the Affordable Care Act.

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