What is Social Security?Americans have been watching for three decades now as members of their political and financial elites attempt to redefine the most successful social program in U.S. history by downgrading and ultimately privatizing benefits, all in the name of fiscal responsibility. (But what about the people who depend upon it?)

What is Social Security? It’s an old-age income program for American workers. It’s disability insurance for injured workers. It’s survivors’ benefits for the families of deceased workers. It’s a social insurance system that belongs to every American working person who pays payroll taxes. That means it’s also a form of mutual aid: the way human beings cooperate to fulfill each other’s needs and desires.

It’s not just a program,” presidential candidate George W. Bush said in 2000. “It’s your property.” He was right. But it’s a collective possession, not a wad of money stuffed into an investment account. I started this blog to help people following the Social Security debate keep it all in perspective: What Social Security is. What it does. And who it’s supposed to benefit.

Who am I? I’m an independent journalist who’s been covering political and financial news for more than a quarter-century. I’ve been studying and writing about Social Security for more than 15 years. I’m the co-author, with Seth Tobocman and Jessica Wehrle, of Understanding the Crash (Soft Skull Press/Counterpoint, Spring 2010). I recently completed a history of the Social Security debate, The People’s Pension: The War Against Social Security from Reagan to Obama (AK Press, Spring 2012).