Social Security was the crowning achievement of Roosevelt's New Deal. It has been the most successful and still remains the most popular of all U.S. government programs. More than a pension program, Social Security provides for workers and their families in the case of early death and disability, in addition to retirement. In 1997, it provided about twelve trillion dollars worth of life insurance alone, more than that of the entire private life-insurance industry. Furthermore, it does all of this in the form of social insurance, in which the distribution and the amount of benefits provided are determined by family relationships and basic economic rights—factors that private insurance and pension plans ignore. Nearly one-fifth of the elderly in the United States rely on Social Security as virtually their sole source of income, while two-thirds of all recipients depend on it for at least half of their income.
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