They used--and continue to use--it as an ATM to fund lots of projects that had absolutely nothing to do with the initial mission (FDR's primary objective). We entered the work force--like the Boomers and others before us--with policies in place enabling people to claim social security benefits at 65. Yet, a few years later the retirement age (72) was raised for us--but not for everyone else. Plus, it is (and has been for at least a couple decades) absolutely clear that unless social security gets a major overhaul soon, that it most likely won't be available for much longer, because the numbers simply don't add up. Whether or not that's a bad thing, I'll leave that to others to decide.
In many other countries, the children are the retirement plan. Parents invest in their children, and their children will take care of them later on.
While I believe it's important to care for those who don't have the ability to care for themselves, I also believe there are cost and stewardship issues that need to be addressed along side. I don't recommend that we trash what we have, but it's clear that the status quo won't continue to work for much longer.
You are right, however, about the multi-generational point. This is a very serious problem. That's why I'm suggesting that those retirement eligible folks reconsider just dropping out of the work force. I do think there will be a huge backlash when 77 million Boomers start eating away at SSI and Medicare. Where will all that money come from? Do we just keep printing ourselves into oblivion?
Look at the countries that have failed Entitlement policies and programs. There rioting in the streets. Even killing each other over it. All because so many productive folks feel like they're not getting their just desserts. It's an attitude problem that's been entrenched into folks for generations and it needs to be adjusted. Folks that have the health and ability to keep being financially productive should do so. In that respect they will keep contributing to the system instead of taking from it.