Controversial Topic: Social Security

Social Security refers to the federal social insurance program in the United States, which provides financial and medical benefits to older Americans, as well as the disabled and some who have been widowed or orphaned by working age adults. All working Americans contribute to Social Security through a dedicated payroll tax. The Social Security controversy refers to a complex economic and philosophical debate over how Social Security should be funded, dispersed, and managed. Some advocate for its continuity as a federal program while others argue that social security should be privatized and removed from government control.

Controversial Topic: Social Security

Formally called “Old-age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance” (OASDI), the Social Security program presents a fairly complex debate. There is relative consensus that reform is needed, but little agreement about the best way forward. In 2015, the total distributed Social Security benefits were $897 billion, which put the fund at a deficit of $70 billion. In fact, the Social Security program has seen a budget shortfall every year since 2011, and is projected to fall short of its annual outlay indefinitely. As a result, most observers agree that some level of policy reform is necessary. However, there are some stark differences in how observers feel this reform should be pursued.

There are two distinct philosophical imperatives driving the social security debate.

  • Conservative, Pro-privatization view: Those who identify as political conservatives or libertarians often advocate for the privatization of social security, claiming that the current Social Security system undermines the free market by reducing individual wealth ownership and redistributing to the public, resulting both in lower returns than a private savings account and preventing contributors from passing wealth on to future generations in their family.
  • Liberal View, Anti-privatization view: Those who identify as liberal often argue for the preservation of Social Security, noting that this forms more than half the income for 2/3rds of American retirees, and as such, is a critical source of national economic stability, an essential social insurance obligation of the government, and that it should be reformed by measures such as tax increases and payment modifications.

Though views tend to divide across political lines, with Republican office-holders more frequently supporting privatization, and Democratic office-holders more frequently supporting measured reform, this divide is something of a simplification. Social Security implicates a number of ideological disagreements concerning the government’s social responsibility to its population, the rights of individuals to control their wealth, and the general principles of free market economics.

The goal of this discussion is to examine the various perspectives shaping the public discussion over Social Security, and to provide you with a look at some of the figures past and present who have influenced this discussion. The figures selected may not always be household names, but are instead selected to provide a nuanced look at the public discourse on this subject, and in some cases, even to provide you with a list of individuals to contact as part of your research.

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A Brief History of the Issue

Much of the selective history outlined below is culled from a more exhaustive history produced by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA provides a great source for understanding the early origins, gradual development, and ongoing debate surrounding Social Security in the U.S.

Social Insurance in Colonial America

Though the Social Security program was several centuries away, the concept of social insurance did exist in Colonial America. The English Poor Law of 1601 was the first set of codified British laws designating taxation as a way to fund relief for the “deserving poor.” British colonists in the New World brought this basic philosophy with them, including the primary features of local control, the provision of “poorhouses,” and high levels of discrimination in determining who was “worthy” of assistance.

According to the Social Security Administration, this earliest form of relief was intentionally designed to shame recipients as a way of discouraging them from leaning on welfare services. Among these methods of discouragement, recipients of relief could “lose their personal property, the right to vote, the right to move, and in some cases were required to wear a large ‘P’ on their clothing to announce their status.”

While this approach sounds cruel, it does begin to shed some light on the ideological push and pull that still exists in the U.S. today, between the view that there is an economic imperative to provide basic support for the elderly, disabled, and impoverished; and the view that social welfare might in fact discourage capable individuals from working to improve their own situation. According to the SSA, “prevailing American attitudes toward poverty relief were always skeptical and the role of government was kept to the minimum. So much so that by as late as 1915 at most only 25% of the money spent on outdoor relief was from public funds.”

This attitude began to shift as a young America saw its first generation move toward retirement. In 1795, revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine produced a work called Agrarian Justice, in which he called for a 10% inheritance tax on those inheriting property, so that a fund could be produced to provide an annual stipend of 10 pounds to each American over the age of 50. (In the same pamphlet, Paine also suggested that every American receive a one-time stipend of 15 pounds upon turning 21.)

The Civil War Pension

Arguably the first true precursor to federal Social Security in the United States, the Civil War Pension was a response to the inescapable consequences of a nation at war with itself. One year into this bloody conflict, America’s population of disabled, widows, and orphans skyrocketed. The nation at conflict was increasingly deprived of countless household breadwinners. While this wasn’t the first military pension program in the U.S., 1862 marked the first time that a federally-controlled program distributed regular pension payments, in this case to soldiers disabled in the Civil War, or to their widows and orphans.

Over time, the scope of the fund grew to include Civil War veterans who were disabled outside of their military service (1890) and veterans reaching old age (1906). By 1910, over 90% of Civil War vets were receiving benefits. In many ways, the scope and nature of this fund would inform the eventual framework for Social Security.

The Industrial Revolution

As America transformed from an agrarian society to an industrial one, various changes precipitated a greater need for social insurance. Among them:

  • A rapidly growing number of people moved from agricultural self-employment to labor work under large industrial operations.
  • People moved increasingly away from rural settings, and into concentrated urban centers.
  • The “extended” family home gave way to the single-home nuclear family.
  • Life expectancy improved with improvements in technology, infrastructure, and education.

These trends magnified the core challenges facing a growing American economy, in particular the need to support a growing population of disabled, widowed, orphaned, and elderly adults who could not work. This meant that historical approaches to ensuring widespread economic security were due for reexamination.

The Great Depression and the New Deal

In October of 1929, the Stock Market took a sudden plunge, touching off what became known as The Great Depression. Within three months of the Crash, the Stock Market had lost 40% of its value, accounting for more than $26 billion in wealth. Unemployment reached a rate of 25% as roughly 10,000 banks collapsed. The SSA reports that worker wages plummeted from $50 billion in 1929 to just $30 billion in 1932.

Widespread joblessness, homelessness, suffering, and economic despair gripped the United States throughout the 1930s. Various political movements spearheaded by figures like Louisiana Governor Huey Long and unemployed California doctor Francis E. Townsend helped to popularize novel plans for nationwide social insurance.

In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President of the United States, and he was carried into office by the promise of his New Deal. This was a sweeping package of reforms aimed at radically transforming the floundering U.S. economy. In doing so, it created a number of groundbreaking publicly funded programs that remain of major consequence today. Towering among these programs was the Social Security Adminsitration.

According to the SSA, “Social insurance, as conceived by President Roosevelt, would address the permanent problem of economic security for the elderly by creating a work-related, contributory system in which workers would provide for their own future economic security through taxes paid while employed. Thus it was an alternative both to reliance on welfare and to radical changes in our capitalist system.”

Roosevelt, in fact, viewed Social Security as a cornerstone to his New Deal. The Social Security Act was signed into law in August of 1935, creating a federal program that paid a continuing income to retired workers starting at age 65.

The SSA reports that the very first monthly Social Security benefits for retired workers, their wives or widows, children under the age of 18, and their surviving aged parents, were distributed starting on January 31, 1940.

Though the concept of social insurance had not originated in the United States, its new framework quickly became a model for the rest of the modernizing world. According to the SSA, a secret meeting between President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill yielded the Atlantic Charter—a joint declaration laying out the founding principles of the United Nations. Among them was a shared dedication to social insurance in the spirit and design of the emergent Social Security program in the U.S.

Disability (1954) and Medicare (1965)

Roosevelt’s version of Social Security would be a compromised version, one that did not ultimately include disability coverage or medical benefits as per his original vision. Both of these would become a part of the Social Security program in future years.

Under President Eisenhower, the Social Security Administration began to incorporate disability benefits in 1954. Subsequently, President Lyndon B. Johnson created one of the most significant additions to the existing program, signing the Medicare bill into law in 1965. This provided a new social insurance program extending health benefits to nearly all Americans 65 or older.

The Greenspan Commission (1983)

In the early 80s, Social Security faced a funding crisis, prompting then-president Ronald Reagan to initiate the Greenspan Commission. Their objective was to bring change to the Social Security and Medicare programs so as to improve their long-term viability. The Commission’s findings ultimately led to the introduction of taxation on Social Security benefits, extension of coverage to Federal employees, and a gradual increase of the retirement age.

Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama

Though Social Security is considered an essential part of the American economic infrastructure, it has continued to generate significant practical and ideological debate over the last several decades. In some cases, amendments or new legislation have altered certain conditions around Social Security. For instance:

  • President Bill Clinton signed the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999, requiring the disabled to pursue vocational rehabilitation, employment, and other support services in order to receive their benefits;
  • President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, bringing greater prescription coverage to the Medicare program; and
  • President Barack Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, appropriating an additional $1 billion to the SSA’s administrative budget in the midst of the Great Recession.

Top Ten Historical Influencers in the Social Security Controversy

Using our own backstage Ranking Analytics tools, we’ve compiled a list of the most influential figures concerning the issue of Social Security in the U.S. between 1900 and 2020. Typically, we use a vetting function called the “leader penalty” to automatically exclude heads of state from our lists, largely because they tend to cast a dominant shadow over most issues regardless of their actual influence in certain areas. In this case, however, the role played by heads of state is relevant and, in fact, central to the debate. With or without the “leader penalty,” the list is dominated by U.S. presidents and presidential candidates, largely based on how they’ve impacted the public view and actual policy around Social Security. The list below is composed without the use of the “leader penalty.”

Top Ten Historical Influencers in the Social Security Controversy
Rank Person
1 Barack Obama
2 George W. Bush
3 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
4 Ronald Reagan
5 Donald Trump
6 Richard Nixon
7 Hillary Clinton
8 Harry S. Truman
9 Lyndon B. Johnson
10 John McCain

Top Ten Most Influential Books About Social Security

Using our own backstage Ranking Analytics tools, we’ve compiled a list of the most influential books on the topic of Social Security in the U.S. between 1900 and 2020. This list is vetted to exclude irrelevant results, particularly works of fiction with incidental keyword matches. The result is a list which demonstrates the notable conservative bent in those texts which have been most influential. Though several economics reference books are rightly included, the bulk of the list is composed of texts which make pro-privatization arguments, or which represent the views of prominent conservative economists and political figures.

Top Ten Most Influential Books About Social Security
Rank Book Title
1 United States Code
2 The God of the Machine
3 The Constitution of Liberty
4 Decision Points
5 Winning the Future
6 The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics
7 Capitalism and Freedom
8 A Choice Not an Echo
9 Crippled America
10 Free to Choose

The Current Controversy

In 2006, then-president George W. Bush observed “Social security — they used to call it the third rail of American politics, because when you talked about it, you got singed, at the minimum.”

This feels like a relevant introduction to the debate today, largely because it underscores the way that Social Security has the capacity to impact such an enormous cross-section of Americans. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which calls Social Security “one of the nation’s most successful, effective, and popular programs,” more than 64 million people, or one in every six U.S. residents, collected benefits in June of 2020. 80% of these beneficiaries are older Americans, while the remainder receive benefits under Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or as young survivors of deceased workers.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) notes that Social Security is designed to align with the cost of living and that nearly every American will enjoy some degree of retirement protection through Social Security. The CBPP also notes that Social Security benefits are generally quite modest, with the average retirement benefit in June of 2020 totaling just $1,514 per month.

However, as noted in our introduction, several factors have contributed to an annual shortfall in Social Security funding since 2011. A combination of increased life expectancy and lower birth rates is producing a labor imbalance, in which the retirement age population is growing at a faster rate than the labor force. This imbalance has strained the Social Security budget and produced regular annual deficits, as well as growing concerns about the long-term sustainability of the current Social Security program.

While most participants in the public debate over Social Security agree that reform is needed, there is sharp disagreement about how best to achieve this reform. And while most presidential administrations will typically oversee some amendments or adjustments to Social Security, there have been few major policy initiatives which have truly confronted this issue in the last two decades.

Recent Republican presidential administrations, Congressional leaders, and conservative think tanks have pushed for privatization of Social Security in lieu of federal oversight, and have also pushed for the creation of Private Retirement Accounts that would ultimately allow Americans to build their own retirement funds rather than funding the federal Social Security program through payroll taxes. Recent Democratic presidential administrations, Congressional leaders, and liberal think tanks have urged for the preservation of Social Security through heightened payroll taxes, higher social security benefit taxation, and the strategic redistribution of public funding.

A Quick Overview of Our Method

Our goal in presenting subjects that generate controversy is to provide you with a sense of some of the figures both past and present who have driven debate, produced widely-recognized works of research, literature or art, proliferated their ideas widely, or who are identified directly and publicly with some aspect of this debate. By identifying the researchers, activists, journalists, educators, academics, and other individuals connected with this debate—and by taking a closer look at their work and contributions—we can get a clear but nuanced look at the subject matter. Rather than framing the issue as one side versus the other, we bring various dimensions of the issue into discussion with one another. This will likely include dimensions of the debate that resonate with you, some dimensions that you find repulsive, and some dimensions that might simply reveal a perspective you hadn’t previously considered.

On the subject of Social Security, the debate requires us to consider both advocates of privatization and those who have worked to preserve the long-term viability of the publicly-funded form of Social Security. Because this is a complex subject that defies over-simplification, identifying influencers requires us to dig a little deeper into certain key terms, such as “social insurance,” “Social Security privatization” and “Social Security Administration.” Likewise, given the complexity of the subject matter, some of most notable voices in the public debate come from well-funded think tanks or lobby groups. This accounts for the inclusion of key terms such as The Heritage Foundation, the CATO Institute, and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). Taken together, these key terms should deliver us to a nuanced understanding of some key influencers and their position in the public debate.

Our InfluenceRanking engine gives us the power to scan the academic and public landscape surrounding the Social Security issue using key terminology to identify consequential influencers. As with any topic that generates public debate and disagreement, this is a subject of great depth and breadth. We do not claim to probe either to the bottom of this depth or the borders of this breadth. Instead, we offer you one way to enter into this debate, to identify key players, and through their contributions to the debate, to develop a fuller understanding of the issue and perhaps even a better sense of where you stand.

For a closer look at how our InfluenceRankings work, check out our methodology.

Otherwise get started with a look at the key words we used to explore this subject:

Key Terms:

Social Security

The primary key term in our discussion, Social Security refers to the social insurance program that was a cornerstone of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Beginning with the first monthly payments in 1940, Social Security is considered one of the most successful social service programs. Today’s Social Security program uses a payroll tax to produce a fund to benefit retirees and the disabled. Many of the influencers produced using this search term were early leaders in the development and administration of the program.

Influencers:

  • Robert Myers “Bob” Ball was an American Social Security official, who served under three presidents , from 1962 to 1973, as Commissioner of Social Security. He is the longest-serving head of the Social Security Administration to date. He also founded the National Academy for Social Insurance. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1935, and in 1936 received a master’s degree in economics from the same institution. Learn more…
  • Arthur Joseph Altmeyer was the United States Commissioner for Social Security from 1946 to 1953, and chairman of the Social Security Board from 1937 to 1946. He was a key figure in the design and implementation of the U.S. Social Security system. Learn more…
  • Edwin Emil Witte was an economist who focused on social insurance issues for the state of Wisconsin and for the Committee on Economic Security. While the executive director of the President’s Committee on Economic Security under U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, he developed during 1934 the policies and the legislation that became the Social Security Act of 1935. Because of this he is sometimes called “the father of Social Security”. Learn more…
  • Peter Arthur Diamond is an American economist known for his analysis of U.S. Social Security policy and his work as an advisor to the Advisory Council on Social Security in the late 1980s and 1990s. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2010, along with Dale T. Mortensen and Christopher A. Pissarides. He is an Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. On June 6, 2011, he withdrew his nomination to serve on the Federal Reserve’s board of governors, citing intractable Republican opposition for 14 months. Learn more…

Social Insurance

Social insurance refers to the basic principle underlying the Social Security program, which holds that broad economic stability and health depends on the ability of a nation to provide care and support for those who can’t work, including the elderly and disabled. Influencers produced using this search term include academics and economists who generally advocate for a sustainable form of nationwide social insurance such as the current system.

Influencers:

  • Monroe Berkowitz was Professor of Economics at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he was chair for many years, and director of the Bureau of Economic Research. Berkowitz was a leading authority on the economics of disability and rehabilitation in public programs, private disability insurance, and public and private rehabilitation systems in the U.S. and other countries. Berkowitz developed the “Ticket to Work” program that was enacted into law in 1999. He was the 2006 recipient of the National Academy of Social Insurance Robert M. Ball Award for outstanding achievements in social insurance. Learn more…
  • Isaac Max Rubinow was a leading theorist on social insurance and one of the most influential writers on the subject. Rubinow had an M.D., from New York University Medical School and held a Ph.D. in economics from Columbia University. His 1913 book, Social Insurance, was the most influential early work on social security. His work impacted a generation of social reformers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, who used Rubinow’s work in drafting the Progressive Party platform in 1912. The Progressive Party was the first of its kind to call for social insurance. Learn more…
  • Ida Craven Merriam was an American economist and statistician who became “one of the seminal figures in the early administration of the Social Security program”, helping to found the nonprofit National Academy of Social Insurance. Learn more…
  • Robert Myers “Bob” Ball was an American Social Security official, who served under three presidents, from 1962 to 1973, as Commissioner of Social Security. He is the longest-serving head of the Social Security Administration to date. He also founded the National Academy for Social Insurance. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1935, and in 1936 received a master’s degree in economics from the same institution. Learn more…

Social Security Privatization

Often presented as a solution to many of the grievances held by critics of the Social Security program, privatization may refer to a number of measures aimed at reforming the existing program. Among those reforms, advocates of privatization have called for administration of the Social Security program by an entity other than the federal government, are critical of the use of a common payroll tax to fund relief for some Americans, and believe that alternatives such as Private Retirement Accounts offer Americans more freedom to control their own wealth. Influencers produced by this search tend to include prominent conservative thinkers, attorneys, and political figures.

Influencers:

  • Will Wilkinson is an American writer who currently serves as Vice President of Policy at the Niskanen Center. Until August 2010, he was a research fellow at the Cato Institute where he worked on a variety of issues including Social Security privatization and, most notably, the policy implications of happiness research. Wilkinson was also the managing editor of the Cato Institute’s monthly web magazine, Cato Unbound. Previously, he was Academic Coordinator of the Social Change Project and the Global Prosperity Initiative at The Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and, before that, he ran the Social Change Workshop for Graduate Students for The Institute for Humane Studies. His political philosophy is described by The American Conservative magazine as “Rawlsekian”; that is, a mixture of John Rawls’s principles and Friedrich von Hayek’s methods. Wilkinson formerly described his political views as libertarian, but he now rejects that label. Learn more…
  • Peter Joseph Ferrara is an American lawyer, policy analyst, and columnist who is an analyst for The Heartland Institute. He is former general counsel for the American Civil Rights Union. A libertarian scholar, he is known for supporting privatization of the Social Security program and for being an opponent of climate change alarmism. Learn more…

CATO Institute

A conservative think tank with strong ties to the movement for privatization of Social Security, the CATO Institute produces research and writing supporting an overhaul of Social Security. While individuals produced by this search aren’t all inherently tied to matters of Social Security policy, their broader influence as members of the CATO Institute make them leading figures in the wider conservative movement, which gives root to the call for privatization.

Influencers:

  • Douglas “Doug” Bandow is an American political writer, currently working as a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute. In 2005, Bandow was forced to resign from the Cato Institute after it was revealed that for over ten years, he accepted payments in exchange for publishing articles favorable to various clients. Bandow referred to the activities as “a lapse of judgment” and said that he accepted payments for “between 12 and 24 articles,” each article costing approximately $2,000. Bandow was subsequently allowed to return to the Cato Institute. Learn more…
  • Jason Kuznicki is the editor of Cato Books and of Cato Unbound, the Cato Institute’s online journal of debate. He earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University, where Kuznicki received a Fulbright Fellowship and a Chateaubriand Prize. Kuznicki previously worked as an assistant editor of the Encyclopedia of Libertarianism. Learn more…
  • Richard Lyndell Stroup is a free-market environmentalist and emeritus professor of economics at both North Carolina State University and Montana State University. He was co-founder of the Property and Environment Research Center and a senior fellow. He is also a research fellow at the Independent Institute, adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, and a member of the Mont Pèlerin Society At Montana State University, he served as head of the Department of Agricultural Economics & Economics. Stroup served as director of the Office of Policy Analysis in the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1982 to 1984. Learn more…

Heritage Foundation

Like the CATO Institute, the Heritage Foundation is a conservative think tank with strong ties to the movement for privatization of Social Security. The Foundation generally advocates an overhaul of Social Security. While individuals produced by this search aren’t all inherently tied to matters of Social Security policy, their broader influence as members of the Heritage Foundation makes them leading figures in the wider conservative movement and its broad philosophical push toward greater privatization.

Influencers:

  • Paul Michael Weyrich was an American religious conservative political activist and commentator, most notable as a figurehead of the New Right. He co-founded the conservative think tanks The Heritage Foundation, the Free Congress Foundation, and the American Legislative Exchange Council . He coined the term “moral majority,” the name of the political action group Moral Majority that he co-founded in 1979 with Jerry Falwell. Learn more…
  • Kim R. Holmes is an author and former American diplomat and Assistant Secretary of State. From 2002 to 2005 he served as the United States Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. Holmes is the current Executive Vice-President of the Heritage Foundation, having served twice as the foundation’s Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies and Director of its Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies between 1992 and 2012. Learn more…
  • Stephen “Steve” Moore is an American writer and television commentator on economic issues. He co-founded and served as president of the Club for Growth from 1999 to 2004. Moore is a former member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He worked at the Heritage Foundation during the period from 1983 to 1987 and again since 2014. Moore advised Herman Cain’s 2012 presidential campaign and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Learn more…

Social Security Administration

Referring to the chief public agency charged with overseeing the Social Security Program, the Social Security Administration (SSA) was formed in 1935, and includes figures who have worked in advocacy of Social Security as a public service, and who have helped to manifest reforms and amendments to Social Security across its 85-year history. Influencers identified here generally played central roles in constructing and leading the program that we know today.

Influencers:

  • Robert Myers “Bob” Ball was an American Social Security official, who served under three presidents , from 1962 to 1973, as Commissioner of Social Security. He is the longest-serving head of the Social Security Administration to date. He also founded the National Academy for Social Insurance. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1935, and in 1936 received a master’s degree in economics from the same institution. Learn more…
  • Theresa M. McGovern better known as Terry McGovern, is the Harriet and Robert H. Heilbrunn Professor and Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. Since 2018, she has served as director of the Department’s Program on Global Health Justice and Governance. Before joining the Mailman School, in 1989 McGovern founded the HIV Law Project and served as the Executive Director until 1999. While at the HIV Law Project, Terry McGovern litigated the groundbreaking case, S.P. v. Sullivan, which led to the Social Security Administration including HIV-related disability in their criteria. She was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the National Task Force on AIDS Drug Development. Learn more…
  • Ida Craven Merriam was an American economist and statistician who became “one of the seminal figures in the early administration of the Social Security program”, helping to found the nonprofit National Academy of Social Insurance. Learn more…

American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)

Formed in 1958, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is among the most powerful policy lobby and advocacy groups in U.S. politics. With more than 38 million members, the AARP focuses on policy issues of consequence to Americans over the age of 50. In doing so, it has long taken an active and vocal stance on Social Security, advocating for the protection and improvement of the existing public program while lobbying against efforts at privatization. Influencers included here are those who have helped to formulate the AARP mission, or to advocate publicly for its top causes, including the protection of Social Security and Medicare benefits for older Americans.

Influencers:

  • Ethel Percy Andrus was a long-time educator and the first woman high school principal in California. She was also an elder rights activist and the founder of AARP in 1958. In 1993 she was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. In 1995 she was designated a Women’s History Month Honoree by the National Women’s History Project. Learn more…
  • William D. “Bill” Novelli, was born in Bridgeville, PA. He became the Chief Executive Officer of AARP in 2002. He remains a powerful influence in American politics. He appeared in, and was a featured speaker at the town hall screening of I.O.U.S.A., a 2008 documentary about the U.S. National Debt. Learn more…
  • Nancy LeaMond currently serves as AARP’s Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer. She leads government relations and campaigns for AARP, widely seen as one of the most powerful advocacy organizations in the country. She also oversees AARP’s public education and outreach initiatives designed to help Americans take charge of their health and better plan, work, and save for retirement. She was formerly CEO/President for five years of the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute, a public policy group founded in 1987 to identify and research emerging international economic, trade, technology, tax, and workforce issues. Learn more…
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Interested in building toward a career on the front lines of the Social Security debate? As you can see, there are many different avenues into this far-reaching issue. Use our Custom College Ranking to find:

Interested in diving into another one of our controversial topics? Check out The 25 Most Controversial Topics Today!

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