District Council 57

75 Years of Social Security

Saturday, August 14 was the75th Anniversary of the Social Security Act. At the time, the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, other businesses and Republican politicians claimed that Social Security would be the “end of democracy” and a “job killer.” They were crying wolf. Social Security continues to help millions escape poverty. Here’s the facts:.

Read below for Cry Wolf quotes from the Social Security Debate in 1935.

FDR on Social Security, May, 1935
“A few timid people, who fear progress, will try to give you new and strange names for what we are doing. Sometimes they will call it "Fascism", sometimes "Communism", sometimes "Regimentation", sometimes "Socialism". But, in so doing, they are trying to make very complex and theoretical something that is really very simple and very practical. I believe in practical explanations and in practical policies. I believe that what we are doing today is a necessary fulfillment of what Americans have always been doing -- a fulfillment of old and tested American ideals.”
                                             Fireside chat in June 1934.

“We can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age…It is, in short, a law that will take care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”
                                        Upon signing the legislation, August 14, 1935:

Republican presidential candidate Alf Landon, September 1936
He based his bid for the White House on repealing Social Security.

The reform "is unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed."

Landon denounced Social Security as "a fraud on the working man" and "a cruel hoax." He said, this "folly" of "bungling and waste," compared poorly to the "much less expensive" and "practical measures" favored by the Republicans.
“Such an excessive tax on payrolls is beyond question a tax on employment. In prosperous times it slows down the advance of wages and holds back re-employment. In bad times it increases unemployment and unemployment breaks wage scales. The Republican Party rejects any feature of any plan that hinders re-employment.”

"We must repeal," the GOP leader argued. "The Republican Party is pledged to do this."

“This is the largest tax bill in history. And to call it “Social Security” is a fraud on the working man.” He called it a “cruel hoax.”

“Imagine the vast army of clerks which will be necessary to keep these records.”

“It’s a job killer”
“In other countries, the problem is handled by taking the necessary sum each year from the current taxes. Otherwise the load would get so big as to be a menace. On the other hand, if industry is burdened with too heavy taxes, the result may be more unemployment in the future, killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. “
                        Harper Sibley, Incoming president of the Chamber of Commerce, May 4, 1935

“If the provisions of the bill now pending should be adopted, the country should realize that within a decade there will be a tax burden amounting probably to as much as $1 billion a year."
                             Chamber Of Commerce statement May 5, 1935

“We believe that this measure, if adopted, means at best an annuity of doubtful value for the aged of the future and unemployment benefit of doubtful value for the normally temporarily unemployed of the future--at the terrific cost of retarding the reemployment of those who are unemployed today.”
                         John Harrington, general counsel for the Illinois Manufacturing Assn., making the argument that Social Security would sink already Depression-stressed small businesses, causing even greater unemployment.

“The tax, social security and Wagner labor measures all hold the threat of higher operating costs and future trouble for industry.”
        Arthur M. Travers, Merchants Association, legislative bureau. Sept. 1, 1935

[Social Security Act is] “economically preposterous and legally indefensible.”
Silas Strawn, a past president of American Bar Assoc and the Chamber of Commerce, 1935 in “Turning Points in Social Security: from Cruel Hoax to Sacred Entitlement” by Sheryl Tynes, (Page 57)

The “so-called social security [will] mean industrial in-security.”
NAM produced a flier a few months before the Social Security Act passed

“Business and industry are already operating under heavy burdens: and that old –age insurance would cause more unemployment.
Allen Treadway (R-Mass) - Ways and Means Committee hearing, March, 1974

"Why talk about wanting to relieve the depression, why talk about charity, why talk about all these other things when you're placing the financial lash upon the backs of the people whose backs are breaking under a load of debts and taxes?” Social Security, he said, is "compulsion of the rankest kind."
Representatives Thomas A. Jenkins (R. -- Ohio)

“Never in the history of the world has any measure been brought here so insidiously designed as to prevent business recovery, to enslave workers and to prevent any possibility of the employers providing work for the people.”
                                   Rep. John Taber (R-NY), 4/19/35

“Real security comes from within the individual”
"There is no such thing, biologically, socially or economically, as absolute security; but the greatest security comes from within the individual rather than from without and the Thames unduly to ensure, will so weaken the individual and cannot adapt circumstances and environment to himself, or himself to his surroundings."
John C. Parker, President of the Brooklyn Edison Company, June 9, 1935

“Crushing Bureaucracy”
[Social Security will ] “impose a crushing burden on industry and labor” would “establish a bureaucracy in the field of insurance in competition with private business,” and would “destroy” private pensions.
Republican statement – April 5, 1935 committee vote.

“This bill opens the door and invites the entrance into the political field of a power so vast, so powerful as to threaten the integrity of our institutions and to pull the pillars of the temple down upon the heads of our descendants. “
Rep. James W. Wadsworth (R-NY), 1935:
“It’s Un-American”
Hastings moved, as the last amendment before final passage, to strike the old-age insurance provisions, arguing that Social Security would “end the progress of a great country and bring its people to the level of the average European.”
Sen. Daniel Hastings (R-Del.)

[Social Security was] "the end of democracy."
The American Liberty League pamphlet, 1935

“The lash of the dictator will be felt and 25 million free American citizens will for the first time submit themselves to a fingerprint test.”
Rep. Daniel Reed (R-NY), 193:

It’s not constitutional
“We question the propriety as well as the constitutionality of any effort by the Federal Government designed to take jurisdiction over the subject matter of the proposed legislation (Social security).”
Chamber of Commerce resolution, May 1935 on mandating states adopt Unemployment Insurance that was included in Social Security Act.

Ex-president Herbert Hoover on Social Security
The economic and social security should not be attained through regimentation of "the mental and spiritual health of our people."

"As a matter of economic security alone, we can find it in our jails. The slaves had it. Our people are not ready to be turned into a national zoo, our citizens classified, labeled and directed by a form of self approved keepers."

Government involvement in these matters will mean that "one of the most fundamental of inspirations to the spiritual growth of the family or individual will have been destroyed."

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