In this month of January 1935 Congress will vote on the Social Security Act. While the debates are waged in our national legislature, in barbershops and department stores, and at kitchen tables across the country, it is the intention of this paper to shed light on several key areas of the bill in drastic need of revision. The Social Security Act, if passed as-is, would create an unjust burden on American workers in trying times. By implementing change to the means by which we achieve a noble end, working men and women can look forward to a brighter future rather than a darker.
The Social Security Act will enact much-needed care for our underprivileged countrymen. The elderly, the unemployed, the handicapped, and dependent children will all benefit greatly from welfare. This paper has no bones to pick with President Franklin D. Roosevelt concerning the admirable and necessary measures this bill will take. The act will create insurance, a pool of money that can be tapped into for relief to the poor, dependent, and unemployed.
One component of the bill that must be revised, however, is who will be included (or more importantly, excluded) from the benefits of social security. The act primarily benefits white males. What about the other factory workers? What about the other farmers, and working women? Mr. Roosevelt is leaving them in the dust, to fend for themselves. The NAACP criticizes the Act, pointing out occupations such as cash tenants, sharecroppers, and domestic servants will be excluded from social security, simply because blacks dominate those jobs. Mr. Roosevelt has bowed to the wishes of prejudiced southern congressmen, and as a result most blacks, and especially black women, will never see minimum wages, unemployment relief, or money for retirement. This, in our view, is unacceptable.
A graver issue is how Mr. Roosevelt plans to pay for this pool of relief money. Employers and employees will both pay a one percent tax on the first annual $3,000 earned. This will allow the Federal government to send monthly checks to retirees. Meanwhile, unemployment hovers at 25 percent. Millions of Americans who are bringing in a small income still live in poverty. The shacks in Hooverville did not disappeared when Hoover did. The United States economy has never been more severely crippled. And Mr. Roosevelt wants to take money from workers’ paychecks? From businesses? A business that is not burden with such a tax will have more money for innovation that could stimulate the economy, or can hire a new worker and get someone off the streets. A worker with a bit more discretionary income will spend it during these hard times, saving his or her family from starvation and kick starting the economy at the same time. The Los Angeles Times has declared that the current method of funding will slow recovery. The American people want reduced taxes, and have written Mr. Roosevelt pleading for such a motion. Now is clearly not the time to burden the American family, nor American business, with an extra tax.
Instead, consider the views of Huey Long and Francis Townsend, who thought it would be better not to burden the poorest, but the richest. Does that not sound more reasonable? Redistribution of national income continues to receive huge numbers of supporters. The Townsend Plan alone has five million members, with a petition of 20 million names. People see this plan as their salvation. Long suggests capping an individual’s income at a few million dollars and collecting the rest to use for the welfare system. The top one percent of America owns a hefty percentage of the nation’s wealth. Those millionaires would do right to give more. Mr. Roosevelt says that a worker paying into the system gives him (and in this case, it is almost certainly a him) the moral right to receive money once retired or laid off. This paper would ask, what about the moral right of the rich? The moral right of Mr. Roosevelt? In our view, the wealthiest would be immoral to say five million a year is not enough, immoral not to care for the elderly and the poor when the common man, the forgotten man, cannot. Long, Townsend, the Congress of Industrial Organization, this newspaper…we do not ask that millionaires give up their millions. Just their discretionary millions.
The Social Security Act should be passed, there is no question. However, it must be made more inclusive, refusing to stoop to the levels of older generations by enforcing Jim Crow laws on welfare. The plan must also be funded not on the backs of those suffering, but by those in mansions with new cars, who never have to fear for being out of work, out of money, or out of food. The common man deserves freedom from such fear. Mr. Roosevelt understands this. If Mr. Roosevelt wishes to drive the money changers from the temple, as it were, it is the opinion of this paper that he do so not with a stick, but with a sword.