Social Security Invades the Family, 1939

I am trying to educate myself on some of these things, in a detailed way.  I am seeking clarity on bouncaries, and I think I found the source of problems with Social Security.  If we allow for the fact that the government is going to run a safety net, and we wish to choose between good approaches and bad, then the following paragrpah from the SSA website shows the difference to me:

The original Act provided only retirement benefits, and only to the worker. The 1939 Amendments made a fundamental change in the Social Security program. The Amendments added two new categories of benefits: payments to the spouse and minor children of a retired worker (so-called dependents benefits) and survivors benefits paid to the family in the event of the premature death of a covered worker. This change transformed Social Security from a retirement program for workers into a family-based economic security program.

via Social Security Online.

The problem is that this did just the opposite of its claimed result.  It did not center the program on the family, but began the government’s intrusion into the family.  Again, let us take as a given that it is not too improper for the government to run a safety net, as this is already a relationship between a worker and his employer, in which the government already figures heavily.  So we as a society decide that the provision of a safety net to workers upon retirement is a reasonable function of government.  At no point, however, does that begin to reasonably be translated into direct support to the spouse or minor children of that retiring worker.  The responsibility for taking care of the family has been transferred from the worker to the government.  The extended family’s motivation and ability to exert pressure on a deadbeat have been reduced or removed.  I view this 1939 expansion of the scope of Social Security into the otherwise not engaged family of a retiring worker a landmark moment in the destruction of the American family.


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