Published Date

February 1, 1946

Resource Type

GI Roundtable Series, Primary Source

From GI Roundtable 5: Why Do We Have a Social Security Law? (1946)

Provisions of our Social Security Law affect a great many people in the United States. Ask the average wage earner, however, what benefits he will draw, or how or when he will draw them, and he will probably come up with some vague answers. And yet, the chances are that out of every pay check he is helping defray the cost of these benefits. The average employer is little better informed as to what definite provisions his pay-roll taxes are helping insure for his employees.

Many people think that our present system of social security should be expanded. Many others disagree. And whether the present system will be broadened, limited, or remain unchanged, depends upon our intelligent understanding of how the law operates.


What form of discussion?

The material in this pamphlet is complete and controversial enough to be useful in conducting a large forum of the “town meeting” type, a panel or symposium discussion, a small and informal discussion group, or a discussion by radio.

Forum: If your group is large, you may find the forum method the best way to present basic information and explain the provisions of the Social Security Act. You may choose a speaker competent to discuss social security, or you may handle this part of the program yourself. In either event, the success of the discussion following this informative talk will depend largely upon how clearly and effectively the information about social security has been presented.

Panel or Symposium: An interesting panel discussion or symposium can be based on this pamphlet. Participants might be selected on the following basis: a man who has never been covered by the Social Security Act, such as a farmer or school teacher; a businessman who has made a pay-roll contribution to support social security, but who will not benefit personally under the law; and a wage earner who holds a Social Security card. Such individuals will normally hold contrasting opinions on social security. This might highlight the discussion and stimulate a lively and worth-while participation by the group.

Informal discussion: If members of your group have had an opportunity to read this pamphlet before the meeting they will be better prepared to take an active part in the discussion. They will be stimulated to do their own thinking. They will also be able to ask more intelligent questions. You may be able to use the “Questions for Discussion,” listed below, as a springboard to start your informal discussion. If your group has not read the pamphlet, be certain that you define the main provisions of the Social Security Law and present enough factual information to insure a discussion of the major problems. As leader, you should prevent the discussion from developing into an open clash on vague social theories.

For more complete information as to how these various kinds of discussion meetings can be planned and conducted, see EM 1, GI Roundtable: Guide for Discussion Leaders. If you are interested in conducting roundtable discussion programs over available radio stations or sound systems, you will find numerous practical suggestions in EM 90, GI Radio Roundtable.

Hints to help leaders

Check yourself on the three points below. They may indicate how well you are planning your series of discussion meetings:

  1. Do you publicize your program? Have you seen the editor of your camp newspaper with regard to using articles and stories of your discussion meetings? Have you posted notices on bulletin boards and placed posters in day rooms and libraries? Are you making use of a sound system for spot announcements concerning your meetings?
  2. Are you preparing your program carefully? Do you rehearse, if possible, with all persons taking part in the talks? Do you use a blackboard or chart to outline the main points or problems concerned in your meeting? Do you use appropriate maps and other visual aids?
  3. Are you being a good discussion leader? Do you make everyone feel comfortable and relaxed? Do you keep the discussion lively by not being afraid to use humor and by maintaining an open-minded attitude toward all points? Do you invite full participation of everyone and try to make your whole discussion personal, enthusiastic, and informal?

Discussion questions on social security

You will probably devise some questions of your own as you prepare your discussion program or as you read this pamphlet. Members of your discussion group will no doubt ask several important questions after the discussion. The questions below may prove helpful, however, in stimulating discussion of this important subject:

  1. Will a good social security system solve the unemployment problem? Is the provision of security for ourselves and family primarily a concern of the individual, the employer, or the government?
  2. Do the three main parts of social security—public assistance, old-age and survivors insurance, and unemployment compensation—cover all essential phases of security? Are the serviceman’s social security rights being protected while he is in the armed forces?
  3. Would it be feasible for all states to have uniform social security programs? Why? Do you think that unemployment compensation encourages idleness? Do unemployment compensation payments benefit the community? Industry? Should coverage of unemployment benefits be made broader or narrower?
  4. Would the system of sickness insurance practiced in Rhode Island be practical in other states? How has the war affected social security? Has your experience during the war years changed your ideas regarding the importance of social security? Do you believe better coverage should be given normal economic risks?
  5. Does our present social security system cost too much? Is it better to concentrate on getting more jobs for more people or on improving our social insurance system? Should employers with a low record of unemployment make lower contributions to unemployment insurance than employers with good employment records?
  6. Do you believe our present social security system should be changed? Should it cover such persons as small businessmen, farm and domestic workers, employees of nonprofit organizations, and government workers? Would you favor bringing the whole social security system under a unified national system, or decentralizing it more than it is now? Should hospital and medical care be included? Should larger federal contributions be made for public assistance to the poorer states?


For Further Reading

These pamphlets are suggested for supplementary reading if you have access to them or wish to purchase them from the publishers. They are not approved nor officially supplied by the War Department. They have been selected because they give additional information and represent different points of view.

WHY SOCIAL SECURITY? By Mary Ross. Published by Social Security Board, Washington 25, D. C. (1945). Free on request. A popular discussion of the development of social security in the United States.

JOBS AND SECURITY FOR TOMORROW. By Maxwell S. Stewart. No. 84 of Public Affairs Pamphlets, published by Public Affairs Committee, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, N. Y. (1943). Summarizes the Security Report of the National Resources Planning Board. 10 cents.

JOINT STATEMENT ON SOCIAL SECURITY BY AGRICULTURE, BUSINESS AND LABOR. No. 33 of Planning Pamphlets, published by National Planning Association, 800 Twenty-first St., N.W., Washington 6, D. C. (1944). 25 cents.

DISCUSSION AND STUDY OUTLINE ON SOCIAL SECURITY. By Eveline M. Burns. Published by National Planning Association (1944). 15 cents.

SOCIAL SECURITY IN AMERICA. Published by United States Chamber of Commerce, 1615 H St., N.W., Washington 6, D. C. (1944). Free on request to servicemen. A series of papers on different aspects of social security read at the National Conference on Social Security.

SOCIAL SECURITY IN THE UNITED STATES. Published by United States Chamber of Commerce (1944). Free on request to servicemen.

APPROACHES TO SOCIAL SECURITY. Published by International Labor Office, 734 Jackson Place, N.W., Washington 6, D. C. (1944). A summary of social insurance and public assistance in many countries. 50 cents.

SOCIAL SECURITY BULLETINS. Published by American Federation of Labor, 901 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D. C. Free on request. Thirteen short, popular discussions of various aspects of social security from the point of view of the AFL. Contains AFL’s proposals for a comprehensive social security program.

FOR THE NATION’S SECURITY. Published by Congress of Industrial Organizations, 718 Jackson Place, Washington 6, D. C. (1943). Free on request. A popular discussion of social security from the point of view of the CIO. Contains a summary of the proposed legislation.

THERE CAN BE JOBS FOR ALL! By Maxwell S. Stewart. No. 105 of Public Affairs Pamphlets, published by Public Affairs Committee (1945). Summarizes the Beveridge Report in popular form. 10 cents.