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Not even talking the talk?

September 25th, 2011 · No Comments · Blog

“Where politicians once drew on a morally resonant language of people, family and shared social concern, they now deploy the cold technical idiom of budgetary accounting.”

Thedore R. Marmor and Jerry L. Mashaw, New York Times, September 23, 2011

This quote, from a New York Times op-ed piece (“How do you say ‘Economic Security’?) , describes how the way we talk about our social problems has changed since the times of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Instead of talking about people and their needs and quality of life, we talk about numbers and budgets. Lost in this rhetoric is an important bit of reality. Namely, many of the programs being characterized as “unaffordable” and “out of control” bring security and stability to families.

The current conversations and debates around the Social Security Administration income support programs are a perfect example of what the authors of this op-ed piece were describing. It seems as if every conversation surrounding Social Security initiated by politicians, the media, and other opinion leaders talks only about the unaffordability and non-sustainability of the Social Security program. While the merits of these arguments can and should be hotly debated, one thing is always left out: how these programs help every day families maintain themselves as active and stable participants in our society. And what it would actually be like to live in an America where our family members did not have access to this income support.

I hope that this website is part of a movement to shift this rhetoric to talk about the actual people helped by the Social Security Program. And I am not talking about the beneficiaries themselves. I am talking about their families. Those of us who have family members who receive Social Security benefits know that we also rely on these benefits too. I myself have a brother and sister-in-law who receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. Both worked as long as they could and until their disability made that too difficult. Now, Social Security benefits maintain and stabilize them in their own homes with their own independence. Without it, all of the lives of my family members would be more difficult. 

John Coburn, Senior Policy Advisor and Training Director, Health & Disability Advocates

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