A review of Social Security, in light of opposition to health care

ObamaCare is a subject of much discussion, especially in the halls of Congress and talk radio.

I propose to examine what the nation went through when the Social Security Act was signed by FDR on 8/14/35. The Social Security Act itself was much broader than just the program, which today we commonly describe as "Social Security." The original 1935 law contained the first national unemployment compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs, and the Aid to Dependent Children program.

Social Security was controversial when originally proposed, with one point of opposition being that it would allegedly cause a loss of jobs. However, proponents argued that there was in fact an advantage: it would encourage older workers to retire, thereby creating opportunities for younger people to find jobs, which would lower the unemployment rate. Opponents also decried the proposal as socialism.

Most women and minorities were excluded from the benefits of unemployment insurance and old age pensions. Employment definitions reflected typical white male categories and patterns. Job categories that were not covered by the act included workers in agricultural labor, domestic service, government employees, and many teachers, nurses, hospital employees, librarians, and social workers. The act also denied coverage to individuals who worked intermittently.

Women and minorities dominated these jobs. Women made up 90 percent of domestic labor in 1940 and two-thirds of all employed black women were in domestic service. Exclusions exempted nearly half of the working population. Nearly two-thirds of all African-Americans in the labor force, 70 to 80 percent in some areas in the South, and just over half of all women employed were not covered by Social Security. Southern congressmen supported Social Security as a means to bring needed relief to areas in the South that were especially hurt by the Great Depression but wished to avoid legislation that might interfere with the racial status quo in the South. The solution to this dilemma was to pass a bill that both included exclusions and granted authority to the states rather than the national government.

These arguments seem to be a “legal” method of discriminating against anyone who is not a white male – very similar to what we see today from the members of the ultra right.

John W. Merrick

Newnan



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