The distinction is that it is mandatory to whom it applies and voluntary to whom it does not apply.
Employee: “The term specifically includes officers and employees whether elected or appointed, of the United States, a State, Territory, or any political subdivision thereof, or the District of Columbia, or any agency or instrumentality of any one or more of the foregoing.”
The law simply does not apply to private sector individuals, because if it did it would be unconstitutional. But private sector individuals can voluntarily step into the federal jurisdiction, to the government’s glee, and be treated just as if they were federal “employees.” This the legal vehicle that the constitutionally frustrated FDR capitalized upon. The Feds can’t step into the private sector, so for the benefit of the individual, during tough times, they’ll now let him step into theirs under the sworn to fiction that they are a government “employee” receiving, or a government “employer” paying, “wages”.
Of course, the game the government plays here is that it gives common words in popular general usage very limited definitions, like the above example for “Employee.” Then it releases official statements like: Social Security is mandatory for all “employees” and their “employers.” Which is perfectly true when the true definition of “employee” and “employer” is known and the federal government’s limited jurisdiction is understood. So the unwary are led to the lair by the oldest trick in the book: Surreptitiously changing the meaning of words. I use surreptitious not in the sense that government is intentionally hiding the new definition, but in the sense that it willfully makes such statements knowing full well that the average joe will never take the time to find the real meaning and instead just rely on the common meaning and some supposed expert’s opinion.
The government has no requirement and definitely no desire to tell you what the definition of “employee” is, other than through the written law. The SS reg cited above, which clearly defines the term, is proper notice. That’s all they legally have to do. The task for a citizen committed to the rule of law and liberty is to 1) find the written law, 2) understand the limited jurisdiction context in which it is written 3) use discernment in evaluating the barrage of political propaganda that will more than likely be contrary to the written law, 4) apply the law as written. Evidently not an easy task for the depression weary citizen or the generations following.
If all this is as thick as mud, it just so happens that Social Security is just another form of income tax and when one understands the income tax he by default understands Social Security. So read my latest post: ‘Blackstone and Dowell: The Income Excise Revealed’ in the Constitutional History forum for a discussion of the evolution of the income tax.
You said: “An amendment was proposed making it optional…” Yes, for government “employees” or “employers”, because that’s the only class that the Feds have jurisdiction over in regards to a social insurance ponzi scheme. They can say ‘its your choice’ or ‘you have no choice’, but only for government “employees” and “employers”. The reason FDR objected vehemently to optionality is that it would seriously frustrate the mandatory-myth misapplication to private sector individuals.
For an excellent and concise discussion of SSN’s go here: