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Problems Addressed By Social Security: 1936

The Social Security Act, our first organized and nation-wide security program, is designed to meet no less than five problems. It is designed to protect childhood, to provide for the handicapped, to safeguard the public health, to break the impact of unemployment, and to establish a systematic defense against dependency in old age.

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Winant, John G.

Winant was a lifelong Republican whose humanitarian principles transcended party lines. Influenced by the writings of Charles Dickens and John Ruskin and inspired by the examples of Lincoln
and Theodore Roosevelt, he was as governor a forceful advocate of progressive reform initiatives, including a 48-hour work week for women and children, a minimum wage, and the abolition of capital punishment. In 1935, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him the first chairman of the Social Security Board.

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Roots of Social Security – Frances Perkins

Before I was appointed, I had a little conversation with Roosevelt in which I said perhaps he didn’t want me to be the Secretary, of Labor because if I were, I should want to do this, and this, and this. Among the things I wanted to do was find a way of getting unemployment insurance, old-age insurance, and health insurance. I remember he looked so startled, and he said, “Well, do you think it can be done?”

I said, “I don’t know.” He said, Well, there are constitutional problems, aren’t there?” “Yes, very severe constitutional problems,” I said. “But what have we been elected for except to solve the constitutional problems? Lots of other problems have been solved by the people of the United States, and there is no reason why this one shouldn’t be solved.”

“Well,” he said, “do you think you can do it?” “I don’t know, ” I said But I wanted to try. “I want to know if I have your authorization. I won’t ask you to promise anything.” He looked at me and nodded wisely. “All right,” he said, “I will authorize you to try, and if you succeed, that’s fine.”

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Child Welfare: A 1934 Report on Security for Children

Final report prepared by Katharine F. Lenroot and Dr. Martha M. Eliot. “The chief aim of social security is the protection of the family life of wage earners, and the prime factor in family life is the protection and development of children. Child welfare, in fact, has been called the ‘Spearhead of Social Security.'”

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Unemployment Compensation: A 1934 Report

The unprecedented extent and duration of unemployment in the United States since 1930 has left no one who is dependent upon a wage or salary untouched by the dread of loss of work. Unemployment relief distributed as a form of public charity, though necessary to prevent starvation, is not a solution of the problem. It is expensive to distribute and demoralizing to both donor and recipient. A device is needed which will assure those who are involuntarily unemployed a small steady income for a limited period. Such income, received as a right, is provided by an unemployment insurance or unemployment compensation system.

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The Townsend Plan

The Townsend Plan proved enormously popular. Within two years of the publication of the Plan as a Letter to the Editor in a Long Beach, California newspaper, there were over 7,000 “Townsend Clubs” with over 2.2 million members actively working to make the Townsend Plan the nation’s old-age pension system. At one point in 1936 Townsend was able to deliver petitions to Congress containing 10 million signatures in support of the Townsend Plan. Public opinion surveys in 1935 found that 56% of Americans favored adoption of the Townsend Plan.

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Old Age Security: Abraham Epstein’s View (1934)

We all know, of course, that any program of social security will be complete if complete security is provided and the best kind of security. But I believe that since we are just imperfect human beings, and most of us are imperfect, we should confine ourselves for the present to one problem, at least try to solve one problem at a time, not 100 per cent, or even 90 per cent. If you can only get over that philosophy to the legislatures, I think that all of our problems on social security in this country will be solved.

The reason that there is no perfect remedy for making old age absolutely secure, no matter what principle is adopted, no matter what legislation we enact, is that there will always be certain flaws to make it at least just below 100 per cent perfect, if for no other reason than the fact that the members of the Senate and House of Representatives are fallible people. Some may not believe that, but at least most of us agree on it. Therefore, we cannot expect infallible laws.

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Veteran’s Pensions: Early History

Since the original resolution of 1776 pension legislation has been voluminous, and down to the revision of the pension laws in 1873 may be justly termed chaotic. This paper will attempt only to outline some of the general features. In order to do this the more clearly the various grants of pensions may be divided into four classes, viz.:

I. Pensions based upon disability incurred in service, or the death of the soldier from such cause.
II. Pensions based upon service and indigence, without regard to the origin of existing disability, or the cause of the soldiers death.
III. Pensions based upon service only.
IV. Pensions based upon disability, without regard to the origin of such disability or the pecuniary circumstances of the beneficiary.

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