Social Security: Beyond the Numbers

What does the nation’s most successful social program, and the debate surrounding its future, mean to regular Americans?
Social Security: Beyond the Numbers

Much of the debate surrounding George W. Bush's plan to privatize social security (partially at first; in full, probably, in the longer term) turns on technical questions concerning growth projections, wage-indexing, taxation, stock returns, and on and on. In the midst of all the policy arcana, we rarely stop to consider what social security—which for the past three-quarters of a century has guaranteed the elderly and disabled a minimally adequate income—means to regular people—to the young, the old, the disabled, the healthy. What do they think, or know, about Bush's plan? How much faith do they have that the program will be there for them? Scott Squire, a documentary photographer from Oakland California, set out in search of answers to these basic questions. This Photo Essay is a series of portraits of the ordinary Americans he met and interviewed early 2005, as the national debate about the future of social security began to heat up.